Written for Skyscape7 for the NejiTen Gift Exchange at the LiveJournal community. Fanart to come!
Warnings: Angst, fluff, brief sexuality (but nothing graphic). Just lime, really. Please heed the Teen/Mature rating. Also, SPOILERS ABOUND for chapter 342 of the manga and before.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and am making no profit from this fan fic.
"I don't understand."
If he had lesser control over his reactions, Neji would have winced. That phrase was not one he often heard from his wife; in all the years he had known her, she had always come off as extraordinarily intelligent and picked up on things more quickly than the typical kunoichi. But right now, Tenten was looking at him with clouded brown eyes, her facial expression appearing permanently set in a state of puzzlement.
He didn't look at her dark hair, disheveled by his hands, or the way her suntanned skin glowed against the tangled white sheets of their bed. He banished any thought of her physical attractiveness from his mind so that he could speak to her properly. "I have a mission," he repeated, "that requires me to serve as a bodyguard for the wife of the Fire Country's daimyo for two weeks."
A faint line appeared on Tenten's brow. "That isn't what I don't understand. You said it was an S-rank mission, Neji. But if you're just guarding her…you're not escorting her, you're not going anywhere. What makes it so dangerous that they sent a Jounin – you – to do it?"
"She is the daimyo's wife." Neji felt her body ghost beneath his as she propped herself up on an elbow to better see him in the dim lantern-light.
"But not the daimyo," Tenten countered. "Which makes it considerably less threatening. What enemies could she have?"
He had planned for this, Neji remembered. He had decided to seduce her first, loosen her up, and then tell her about the mission. He had never truly doubted Tenten's shrewdness, but he had hoped she would skip the questions and just let him go. Then again, he mentally admitted, it is suspicious that this mission is S-rank. "Enough, apparently," he answered. "Godaime-sama said she is the target of kidnappings meant to get the daimyo's attention. I have been told that she is young and naïve and incapable of knowing the consequences of her actions. She would as soon provoke an assassin as distract him until help arrives."
"Even so, Neji, you're Neji." Tenten sat up fully now and wrapped her arms around him, resting her chin on his shoulder so that he couldn't see her eyes now. Neji held her back, absently running a finger over the smooth flesh of her back. He could feel her heart still fighting for regulation after their lovemaking. Perhaps he had miscalculated; he was the one feeling loosened up while Tenten seemed ever more focused. "Sakura has told me personally that Tsunade-sama tends to keep you on reserve for really dangerous missions. Why not send Kiba or Lee? Or me?"
"It seems I was asked for."
"By name?" Tenten started to pull back from him, but he caught her wrist, brought it to be lips. "Konoha doesn't do specific requests, even for high officials, let alone their wives." He felt her pulse quicken again, but Neji could tell she was trying to control it.
"My guess would be money is involved."
"Neji, I'm serious. This mission could be really dangerous and they're just not telling you about it!" Tenten met his eyes again, and he released her wrist to let her know he truly was listening. "I don't want you going without knowing what you're getting into. You'd want the same for me."
That was true. They had only been married for a month, but Tenten had taken advantage of the time and chipped her way into his head. Neji had no idea whether to be touched by her concern, annoyed at her apparent lack of trust in his ability to stay safe, or simply frustrated by the fact that she was not reciprocating any form of sexual need – even while he mouthed at the side of her neck.
"Tenten, have I ever come back from missions not in one piece?" he asked finally, grazing his teeth across the lobe of her right ear.
"No." The sudden breathlessness in her tone was a welcome stroke to his ego. He traced her lips over the underside of her jaw and felt her clutch his bare shoulder in response. "But—"
Slowly, he lowered her back down to the mattress, her head resting on a pillow. He let his hands move of their own volition, touching on instinct, and was rewarded with a pleasing series of gasps. He covered her slackened mouth with his own, feeling her long moan rumble down his throat.
Her arms came up around him, one hand curling into his silken black hair, which fell over her and brushed her arm, her neck, her breast. She kissed back, igniting a fire in his stomach, and they rolled so that she was stretched across him. Her lips left his then, teasing him with little closed-mouth kisses down his throat and chest, then back up.
One fact was undeniable: ninjas or not, they very much liked being newlyweds. And as far as Neji was concerned, Tenten excelled at everything that entailed.
Later, after both of them were sated and panting in the dark (Tenten had knocked over the lantern in a particularly uncontrolled moment), Neji held his wife against his chest, and played with a damp lock of her hair. He always waited until she fell asleep to drift off himself.
"I love you, Neji."
He shut his eyes, feeling every inch and line of her in the dark, savoring the scent of her skin and the sound of her voice. His blood was still racing due to her, but his mind now joined the sprint as well. "Tenten..." Why did he always have trouble with this part?
Her smile was something he could almost feel without seeing. "You don't need to say it back to me. I know."
Even though she spoke those very words every night, Neji constantly sensed a discontent within her. He had never been able to actually tell her that he loved her – not with that precise word. Maybe it was because he had been denied the phrase his entire life, or maybe it was just shinobi law preventing the verbal expression. Either way, Neji hoped that he managed to get his meaning across in other ways, like saving her life on missions or sharpening her kunai for her when she was out getting groceries.
Whether or not it was enough for her was the only thing Neji never felt sure of.
"I'll come back safe," he murmured after several silent minutes. "I promise, Tenten."
She only shifted in his arms, pulling the kicked-away sheet around them, and left him in favor of dreaming.
Out the window, Neji could see the moon hanging low in the sky. It was at the last quarter.
The Fire Country daimyo's wife, Kikya, was a rich woman who knew exactly what she wanted at all times. At twenty-six, she was only two years older than Neji and had yet to bear the daimyo any child. She explained to Neji on his first night in her husband's palace that she was certain there was a perfect moment waiting for her, when she would be blessed with fertility, but that she also believed it would not come while her husband was away.
It was an odd thing to be told over dinner. Neji had responded respectfully – by wishing healthy children for her and the daimyo – and had then proceeded to outline his plan of defense for her. Kikya had looked at him with some dissatisfaction at first, but then her heavily-painted lips had widened into a ruby smile, and she promised to have all of the files on her potential attackers sent to his quarters.
The first week passed uneventfully. There were more than enough false alarms. Kikya had so far claimed to see missing-nin on the roof, a disfigured kunoichi holding a sword at her window, and three shinobi evilly calling her name – all in the middle of the night, and she reported the incidents by bursting into his room. Each time, Neji had needed to walk her back to her finely-decorated chambers, search the perimeter thoroughly, and reassure her that she was in no danger whatsoever at the present time.
On his tenth day there, Neji had grown unsettled enough that he didn't mind approaching her at breakfast and speaking to her directly on the matter. "Kikya-sama," he said with a bow, joining her at the table because she beckoned to him with one dainty hand. "I wonder if your husband is safe. None of your presumed threats have performed any damage here, and he requested only Konoha Chuunin to guard his carriage in his travels to the Water Country."
Kikya's black eyes, bested in darkness only by her rich hair, narrowed at the mention of the daimyo. "I am sure he is well, Neji." She had refused call him Hyuuga since first meeting him. "I have only one Jounin looking after me, and my husband has three Chuunin with him. Surely three Chuunin equal at least one Jounin?"
"I'm not sure. I am not familiar with the Chuunin that were sent." Neji reached for his morning cup of tea, but his hand was stopped by Kikya's.
"Do you not worry for me?" she demanded, her eyes growing suddenly wet. "I am paying you a considerable amount to protect me, but so far I feel as though you are barely trying!"
Neji took a breath, his wariness heightened by her cheeks, which did not pale with fear but rather colored with…something else. Deliberately, he removed his hand from beneath hers. "What would you have me do to convince you that I am serving you to my best abilities, Kikya-sama?"
"Move into my room," she said at once, startling him, although Neji gave no such indication. "Starting tomorrow night. You can keep all of your things in there, I do not mind, I've space enough." Her eyes burned into his gaze like some sort of black fire, and the tears he had spotted were now gone as if they'd never been. And Neji had an inkling that they had never been.
He stayed silent too long as he tried to recall any mission he had ever undertaken with circumstances at all similar to these. He could remember nothing of the sort. "It is not within protocol," he began gingerly, thinking Lee was so much better at dodging difficult situations than he was.
"Damn your protocol," Kikya declared. "I will not feel secure until I have my hired shinobi where I can see him protecting me at all moments. This is your order, Neji. Surely you will not wish to disobey me and mar your village's reputation for reliable ninja?"
His jaw tightened. He was not stupid enough to not realize when he was being threatened, but there was no feasible way of extracting himself from the predicament without compromising his – and Konoha's – position.
Thinking hard, Neji considered that he only had four days left of this mission on his contract. When they were up, he could get a replacement, and go home.
Four days. Absence had already been steadily shredding his professionalism, and Neji wondered if it was just being a husband that had him so concerned or if another invisible force was at work on his mind. He badly wanted to oppose Kikiya's ultimatum, and yet he was having trouble finding the nerve to put Konoha in an instable position.
"Neji? What is your answer?"
He lifted his colorless gaze to Kikya, and this time successfully gripped his teacup. "Very well," he said at last, and tossed back the drink. It tasted awful, and in the liquid he could see a circular lantern hanging overhead, lighting him like the moon lights the evening.
Tenten looked over her shoulder to see Sakura walking toward her. She ordered her lips to move into a smile, even though smiling was the last thing she wanted to do. "Good evening, Sakura," she said, sounding more fake than she knew.
The ever-empathetic Sakura caught on at once. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing. I'm just here to see Godaime-sama." Tenten cast a look around the Hokage's work building and pursed her lips. She usually only came here to report missions, and that was always with a fellow ninja present. She was not entirely sure how she would face her childhood idol alone.
"Oh! Well, I'm going in to see her now to tell her I'm going to get in some nighttime training with Naruto. I'll take you in," said Sakura helpfully. The pink-haired girl led the way to Tsunade's office, and Tenten followed, forcing herself to remember why she was here. All too quickly, Sakura was opening a door, and they were looking at Tsunade behind her desk, drinking something that looked suspiciously like sake.
"Master, I'll be leaving now," called Sakura cheerfully. Her bright expression fell when she spied the white bottle grasped in Tsunade's hand. "Master," she said reproachfully.
Tsunade stashed the bottle with one hand and reached for a stack of papers with the other. The result was several papers flying off her desk. "What!" she shouted in a panic. "Sakura, Shizune already told me you had plans to train tonight. So go train!"
Tenten watched Sakura pinch the bridge of her nose. "I will. Anyway, Master, Tenten-san is here."
"Tenten?" Tsunade's eyes, nearly the exact shade of brown as the woman in question's, swung to the arrival. "You haven't been on a mission."
"No, Godaime-sama," Tenten said, feeling a thrill of nerves when Sakura left the room and shut the door behind her. "I am…oh, I'll help you."
Tsunade seemed perfectly inclined to allow Tenten to pick up her scattered paperwork, and she sent the younger woman an approving grin. "Thanks. But I imagine you're here because you think there's something I can help you with."
"Y-yes." It wasn't just seeing Tsunade that had her nervous, Tenten admitted to herself. "Neji…my husband has been gone for eleven days now."
"He isn't due to return for three more," replied Tsunade. "Do you need to contact him?"
"No," Tenten said hurriedly, "but I was just...wondering. I guess. When Neji first told me about the bodyguard mission, I was a little surprised." Stunned, really, she thought. "Isn't the mission below his level?"
"It's stated as S-class."
"I know." She gathered papers, her eyes seeing her husband's face rather than the carpet. "But there have been reports of the daimyo being attacked, and Neji has sent none on such for his wife. Has…has Neji sent any word at all?" asked Tenten, the idea just now coming to her.
Tsunade shook her head as Tenten stood up and set the retrieved papers on the desk. "No. But that only means that nothing has occurred. You know that clients are under contract to notify Konoha if a ninja is injured or killed."
"I know. I just…" She twisted her fingers together, not even knowing what she was trying to ask. "I guess it's because we haven't been married very long. Everything seems that much direr. Who is the daimyo's wife that she needs more skilled protection than the daimyo himself?"
"Well, for starters, she's incredibly self-possessed." Tsunade's usual smirk appeared as she reached for the papers and began leafing through them. "I should have a sheet on her…oh, there's one on the floor that you missed. That must be it."
Tenten kneeled and picked up the face-down sheet of paper, turning it over as she rose. "That's her?" What she saw was a flawless, moonlike face, thick hair black as ebony and eyes to match, and gleaming red lips fitted into a come-hither smile. "That's who Neji is protecting?" Kikya – even the name was elegant.
"Looks stuck-up, doesn't she?" remarked Tsunade conspiratorially. "You'll never believe what she said to me when I asked her why she was requesting Hyuuga Neji."
Tenten looked up from the paper, which was now crinkled at the edges from her unnecessarily tight grip. She had to stop thinking about Kikya's eyelashes – she had always wanted long eyelashes like that – to hear what Tsunade was telling her. "She said something about him?"
Tsunade rolled her eyes at exasperation was what she was going to relay, but Tenten felt her pulse race. A woman that beautiful…no word for two weeks…
She could see the moon glowing in the sky. It was no more than a waning crescent.
Black eyes were watching him. "I suppose you find the room to your liking?"
Neji felt weighed down by her gaze, which he purposefully avoided from his wide pallet on the wooden floor. Six feet away, Kikya stared at him from on high, reclining on a tall bed laced with golden satin. Around him, hand-painted lanterns flickered and flared, expensive chimes danced in the wind just outside the door, and the blaze of soft colors and bright fineries that could only be found in the house of one so rich threatened to undo his patience.
"Yes," was all he said.
He had sat in this room, this bedchamber, for under an hour and already he was yearning for the unobtrusive décor of the house he shared with his wife; the plain walls and the simple lamps and the bed that was meant to cradle only them, not to catch the eyes of others. Mostly it was the scent of fragrant ointments and oils that had him wanting to run out. There was never any overpowering smell of flowers or fruit at home…there was only the scent of work; wood, steel, sweat, and sometimes – sometimes wild blossoms if Tenten had just come from strolling in the woods with Hinata, as she was prone to do.
Neji told himself to stop thinking of his wife. Doing so would only worsen the encroaching loneliness. Kikya's hair and eyes were an irritably dark shade, and her face was so affected by cosmetics that he was wondering if she would be half so beautiful without them. Unfortunately, he knew the answer would be yes.
Kikya lifted one well-shaped eyebrow. "Tell me, Neji. Despite my efforts, you come across so cold. Have I been mistreating toward you?"
"No." Tension edged along his shoulders.
"And have I done anything to wrong you since your arrival here?" The daimyo's wife now slithered off her massive bed, the dark blue silk of her kimono rippling at her ankles. She had prepared for bed – but not sleep – her hair flowing thick, dark, and free nearly to her waist. Neji only saw it as it was; a hindrance to a kunoichi.
Kikya approached him now, looming over his pillowed pallet like a hawk contemplating its prey. "Then why," she went on with a note of affront in her voice, "have you so readily denied me?"
Neji's eyes snapped to hers. He was not so daft as to play dumb, but part of him had been hoping against what he knew to be true. "You aren't in danger," he said, his voice dangerously low.
"Oh," breathed Kikya, a smile playing upon her full red lips, "but I am. You see…with my hideous husband away, I've the danger of being powerfully lonely. He suggested that I hire a Konoha shinobi to serve as a guard while he traveled and then obtained portraits and information on the best in that puny village of yours for me to see." She appeared too busy at looking coy to notice the way Neji's hands clenched. "You caught my attention, Neji."
"I imagine so," replied Neji with a smile that held only bitterness. "Hyuuga eyes usually earn us a second glance."
"Not just the eyes," murmured Kikya, her voice deep, unabashedly roving her eyes over every inch of his body. With a smirk, she went to her knees beside him on the pallet and seized his shoulders with the command of one used to getting her way. Before her mouth could so much as graze his, Neji had her by the wrists, pinning her arms to her sides and holding her at a distance.
Kikya's eyes widened, and she began to struggle at once. "What on earth is the matter?"
"What's the matter?" he seethed. "I've been hired on a fool's mission and wasted nearly two weeks here!" His voice was uncommonly strong but not loud. "I've been married only a little over a month and you tricked my leader into sending me here under false pretenses."
Kikya stared as though he had told her that night was truly day. "I don't understand, Neji."
A slow, secret upturn of lips happened upon Neji's firm mouth. From this woman, the phrase meant absolutely nothing to him. "You wouldn't," he agreed. "I fight harm-causing ninja, not a woman's disloyal lust."
"What, are you saying that plain little urchin you married is keeping you from me?" Kikya saw him with astonished eyes. "I saw her resume, too. Whatever is she called…Ten-tok?"
His lip curled. "Tenten."
Kikya looked completely oblivious to the obvious signs of her guardian's displeasure. "Of course…Tenten. Not exactly a fair name, and she isn't exactly what you'd call exotic, is she? All scarred and bruised. I'll bet her muscles took all the womanliness from her. How long did it take to draw up your marriage arrangement, Neji? And how long before you accepted that you were wedded to a woman hardly more alluring than a log in the wood?"
It was only then that Kikya began to take notice of the unnatural, silent motionlessness that had settled over Hyuuga Neji. White eyes bore into black, and it was now not from desire that her pulse quickened. This time, she couldn't find the voice to ask him what the matter was, but Neji answered anyway.
"You remind me of Yuuhi Kurenai," muttered the Byakugan master. "You wouldn't have seen her resume from Konoha; she's on inactive duty. But she's similar to you in that, as a woman, she is stunning. She is a dream of femininity, the kind we send on undercover missions that require 'distracting' men." His jaw firm, he continued in low tones. "But you are not at all like her in any other way. You lack strength, something Kurenai has in abundance. She is a top-of-the-line kunoichi…and a single mother. She finds will when others lose their own. She knows loneliness as the one important to her died some years ago, and knows the real meaning of 'wealth'." The way Neji regarded Kikya now was as one disenchanted, as one longing to be somewhere else.
Kikya's gaze was rock-hard and yet still somehow injured. "And what does this Kurenai have to do with your Tenten, Neji?"
"Kurenai has to do with you," Neji told her sharply. "Tenten…she has everything to do with me."
"Oh!" Her rushed laugh was breathy in its falsity; her words she threw out as though they were poisoned needles. "I imagine you, Konoha's most prodigious mission-minded Jounin, even love her, don't you?"
Neji's hands unclenched on her shoulders, and he went to his feet. Kikya angled her head back to keep her eyes on him, and Neji looked down upon her, the fall of his long hair casting shadows on his face. "I do," he said, but his mind was no longer in the gaudy room. "I lo—"
Suddenly, his eyes went wide. Neji's right hand went up to clutch at something beneath the loose material of his shirt. When he spoke, he sounded completely removed from the world around him.
"Tomorrow I will be replaced by a colleague, Rock Lee. He will defend you in whatever way you claim to require." Head clear and eyes focused, he added assuredly, "I am going home."
Kikya was left to stare after him from her place on the pallet as Neji swept from the room, his hair snapping behind him like the mane of a stallion. Her marble-like cheeks were flushed pink, and her eyes were harder than granite. She rubbed her wrists where Neji had so harshly gripped her and quietly fumed.
The moon watched over the daimyo's house. It now seemed somehow brighter in the night.
Tenten stood more silent than death in the small clearing of Konoha's expansive forest where she and Neji had trained together as children. She didn't know why she had come here, and at so late an hour in the overcast night; Neji and she had moved on from small battlegrounds. They now used wide open fields since unleashing their power here would cause more damage than the forest could take.
But as she looked at the trees that surrounded her, Tenten saw marks and nicks that she could remember putting there herself. There were holes in some of the trunks which Neji had inflicted upon the trees with his Gentle Fist…she used to dodge them in defense practice, always knowing that he would never truly hurt her.
She considered training. She had a few shuriken on her that she could use in simple target practice – it never hurt to review the basics – but she was dressed for sleeping, in a cotton shirt with the sleeves cut off and spandex shorts. Tenten had only come here on a whim after the lack of warmth on her husband's side of the mattress had driven her from bed. And she hadn't wanted tea to put her to sleep, she hadn't wanted weapon-polishing or the like to wind down with.
Reaching out her left hand, Tenten light traced her fingers over a particularly deep scar in an ancient oak tree. A plain gold wedding band glinted in the moonlight, making her brow furrow. He didn't wear one, only because she told him she didn't expect him to.
She had wanted Neji, and she had wanted to know…
It made her hate herself, thinking of that Kikya person. The daimyo's wife, or so Tsunade had relayed, had commented that Neji "must be perfect for more than just battle." She knew who Neji was, had never denied it – he was a nobleman, if a branch son, wedded to a kunoichi without heritage and no grace or careful upbringing to speak of. It was known throughout the village that the Hyuuga in general had disapproved of their union, even if it had been approved by the main house.
Without warning, her eyes grew hot and Tenten swiftly shut them to force down the threat of tears. She didn't cry anymore, Neji had never even seen her cry. It was the one reciprocation she had in response to the thing he had never once said to her, even in spite of all their trials together.
It didn't matter, she reminded herself. She knew he loved her, and that was all that was necessary. It made no difference to Neji whether or not she was feminine, like Ino, or of known family, like Sakura. It made no difference—
And here she was, for perhaps the twentieth time since their wedding day…Tenten was convincing herself again.
She froze, her hand still flat upon the tree trunk. After a moment's recovery, she looked over her shoulder to see Neji, standing at the opposite tree-line, watching her with Byakugan. Her breath caught, and she had no time to be surprised before he was in front of her and reaching out.
"Neji," she started, but his arms were around her then, clutching her to his chest, and she felt his lips trace over the top of her head. "What—"
"I couldn't find you." His voice sounded odd. She couldn't see his eyes since he held her so closely, but she experienced the familiar feeling of the Byakugan losing sight of her chakra system as he relaxed his jutsu. "You weren't in bed, but it wasn't made…you weren't at the house."
"It's dark," she murmured as though that explained her absence from their place. "And I couldn't sleep. I came out here…for air." She took a step back although he still held onto her, and Tenten met his eyes. "Are you all right?"
She felt relieved – he looked so eager to be with her, and it had her spirit soaring. It was impossible to fully see him the night's blackness, but she felt the planes of his face with a palm, a smile conquering her face when he leaned slightly into her touch.
"I'm…fine." But his pale eyes were visible to her, and they now began to glow in the dim light with a fever she had never seen in him before. Neji's voice changed, something indefinable within it that had heat spreading from her abdomen to every other part of her body.
"Neji." His name came out on an exhale as he guided her backward until her back was pressed against the tree trunk she had been examining. He kissed her almost frantically, his fingers both gentle and firm against her hips. Within moments, he was pulling a moan from her.
"What happened?" she managed to gasp out before he left her bereft of all speech with his ministrations.
He took a minute for himself before replying, pulling her hair out of its restraining buns and threading his fingers through it as he breathed in deeply the scent of her neck. Tenten couldn't remember him ever being this wild, and she wanted to make a joke about a man's neediness after only two weeks, but she sensed seriousness to this moment that she didn't want to ruin.
Neji slowly straightened and looked her in the eye, his thumb rising to move along her jaw line as though the shape of her face entranced him. "I discovered something."
"Well—" He cut her off with another kiss, and she laughed shortly. "Well, Neji," she pushed him away in an attempt to glean a proper answer, "what was it? Neji!" He was still trying to seduce her with his mouth, his hands. She eventually grabbed his shoulders to grin up into his face. "You could make me crazy," she told him, her tone fond nonetheless.
"I love you."
Her smile fell. After what felt like a pause in Time itself, she blinked rapidly and felt an altogether different kind of warmth spread through her. This time, the tears came unbidden and insistent, and soon her cheeks were wet.
Neji's eyes were wide, and he seemed confused. As he was prone to do, he hurried to rectify his seemly mistake. "I'm sorry…"
She punched him in the shoulder, though he remained unaffected. "No, don't be…" Another laugh, this one nervous, interrupted her words. "Don't be sorry, Neji, for goodness' sake!" She buried her face into his chest, her shoulders shaking, but no noise came out of her.
Neji stood frozen, worried that any move he made or any word he said would upset her further. After a moment, Tenten looked up at him. "Something's digging into my nose," she informed him.
Her husband reached down his shirt and brought up something on a thin chain. After an instant's inspection, Tenten saw it was a wedding ring, identical to the one she wore. Shocked, she locked gazes once more with him. "But I told you—"
"I wanted to."
This time it was her that made a move, locking a leg behind his knee and twirling them to trap him between her body and the tree. Their lips fused together, both of their grips strong enough to bruise each other but neither of them minded. Neji's breath came as ragged as hers.
She pulled back for air and, knowing precisely where they were headed, asked with amusement, "Do you really want to christen our old training ground?"
Neji surprised his wife by showing her a broad smile, one she had rarely seen before but for the positively feral aspect of it. Just short of dangerous. Catching her off-guard, he lifted her off the ground, holding her to his side with one arm as he sent chakra to his feet and leapt to the high tree boughs above.
"No," he replied, setting her down beside him on a limb. "I want to go home, and I want you to be there."
Tenten couldn't help thinking that she was the luckiest kunoichi in Konoha. "Always," she murmured, sealing the promise with a squeeze to his hand. "Now why don't we—"
"Tenten." The sudden seriousness to his voice had her glancing back at his as she prepared to lead the way home in the dark. "I always find you beautiful." He said it as though he had sensed her doubts.
Of course he did, Tenten thought. It was Neji, after all.
Remaining wordless, she only lifted a hand and crooked a finger in beckoning, then took off, forcing him to chase after her back to their house. It was a silly, childish thing to race through the trees.
It was an in-love thing to spend forever together. And like anyone else, their love had phases.
In the sky, a new moon was hanging, invisible to all. That was the way it was for Neji as Tenten; new beginnings for them always came unseen, brought on by feelings that never waned.