A/N: I'm sure no one expected this. I didn't even expect this and I WROTE the damn thing.
After so much time I know my writing has changed. I don't write exactly as I did three years ago so of course this chapter will not fully be the writing you remember but I tried really hard to get back into the groove. I don't know whether I've succeeded, but you'll be the judge of that.
For those of you who are new readers: welcome. To those who started reading three years ago, sent me lovely reviews, and returned after all that time: welcome back!
I can't sleep.
The wedding is too close for comfort now. Three months ago it seemed far enough away for me not to worry about, but it's happening in two months.
Two months. I'm turning seventeen in two months. A year ago I never would've imagined this for my future; barely a jonin and already married. I turn over in my bed and frown. This wedding business is getting out of hand. Hiashi wants to invite all the ninja of Konoha and maybe half of the village too and no, don't worry about the expenses because they are all taken care of. Instead, Neji, lets talk about how high of a cake you want! It's enough to make you hate weddings altogether.
My mind is reeling from images of kimonos and haoris.
And on top of that I can't get Tenten out of my mind.
Why did I kiss her that day? How did my impulses get the better of me? Fuck. That definitely wasn't supposed to happen. Now every time I get even close to sleep her image pops up and I can't fall asleep.
I throw the covers off and run my hands through my hair.
Frustration is not something I'm accustomed to.
It feels weird.
What is wrong with me?
Shikamaru takes a drag of his cigarette. "It's simple: You like her."
"That can't be it. Give me something else. Maybe I'm ill."
"You seem fine to me," Naruto offers helpfully.
I successfully ignore the urge to wrap my fingers around his neck. After all, you shouldn't try to kill the people you go to for help. Then again . . . I really only came for Shikamaru's help. No. Murdering someone would put a bad taste in my mouth. It was still pretty early in the day and I don't want to go home and have to explain the blood on my outfit.
Shikamaru sighs and grinds his cigarette butt into the ground. "Look, Neji. Everything you described makes me think you like her."
"That can't be it," I say flatly. "It has to be something else." Because it can't be true. It can't. I would know. I'm a fucking genius. I wouldn't need these two to tell me. I would know why I have sudden urges to kiss her and touch her. I would know why I can't stop thinking about her . . . Shit . . .
"Is it that bad that you might actually like the girl who's gonna be your wife?"
"Fate isn't that kind," I say.
"Maybe you've earned it."
"I don't know why you're taking such a fatalistic view on this." Naruto fingers the hair hanging in his eyes and says, "I'd be fucking ecstatic if I were you, Neji. Liking a girl and knowing she likes you back is the best."
I stare at him for a moment. "You think she likes me?"
"No," he says, "I know she likes you."
"How do you figure that?" I ask, genuinely curious.
"I'm a ninja. Duh."
This time I don't resist the urge to wring his neck.
Is it possible to like two guys at once?
I'm beginning to think so because part of me likes Anonymous, but then another part likes Neji.
Does this mean our engagement is fate smiling down on me? Giving me some opportunity to be happy with the guy I like? Could this turn into love? Maybe it's too early to think about this. I don't even know if Neji likes me that way. Though he has been acting more friendly. All those gestures and that kiss on my cheek . . . Ugh. Maybe I'm just over thinking this and building up his actions in my mind to fit with some romantic notion I've imagined.
Sakura was right.
I can't believe I like him.
Marriage to Hyuuga Neji . . .
Hyuuga Tenten . . .
God, I am an idiot.
Seeing Neji at training I realized that today was April 3rd.
Exactly two months till we get married.
I'm less apprehensive about it now that I know him better, but part of me is still a bit annoyed. You're supposed to marry the person you're in love with, right? Well, I can really only speak for myself, but I sure as hell don't love Neji and I'm pretty sure he doesn't love me either.
Maybe this is only an idealized version of a relationship.
You always hear that the right way to progress through one is to meet the other person, start dating, get engaged and then get married and have a family.
You're not supposed to work backwards. It doesn't work out right that way.
Does this mean our marriage is gonna be doomed from the start?
"Tenten, you're getting frown lines."
"Oh, yeah," I say, absently rubbing at my forehead. "That could be a problem."
Neji raises an eyebrow at my comment. "I thought women were supposed to care about those things."
I roll my eyes. "I'm a kunoichi. I don't have time to worry about my appearance."
"That doesn't stop Yamanaka."
"She's a special case."
"Of that I have no doubt."
We've fallen into this routine faster and faster over the last few months. Talking. Just talking. And it's comfortable. Neither of us has any real hope about getting out of this engagement. The Hokage wants it and the Hyuuga clan seems to like me more and more from what I've seen. Hiashi seems particularly fond of having me around because I am an excellent sparring partner for Hinata. Over the last few weeks she has really improved and even bested Neji in the courtyard yesterday.
Neji didn't seem too keen on training today; I wasn't in the mood either. Gai and Lee were using all matter of taijutsu on each other a few meters away and just watching them was enough to make my body feel tired. Sometimes I feel like they do more than enough training for all of us.
"Two months from today we're getting married."
He remembers. "You don't say . . ."
Neji abruptly grabs my shoulders and turns me to face him. The contact itself is startling, but not as much as the look on his face. He looks grim as he flexes his fingers on my shoulders.
"I want to make this perfectly clear," he begins and I frown at his tone. "I never expected this to be a loving relationship from the start. I would've been satisfied just knowing we can stand each other's company for more than five seconds, but I realize that might not be what you want. So I want to ask you . . ."
Oh my god.
He is not doing this . . .
". . . I want to know if this is what you want, Tenten."
My brows furrow. "I don't understand. What's the point in asking me this? Now?"
Neji sighs. "I am perfectly content with our relationship as it is now, but are you?"
The obvious answer is yes but what I want to say is no. I'm not content, not at all. Because I don't know how he feels about me. This was one of those things I've learned about Neji over the last three months: he always puts others first.
I absently lay my hand on his wrist. He doesn't fail to notice.
"Content how?" I ask.
"You haven't answered my question yet. Why are you asking another?"
"Because I'm curious, Neji. Content how?"
He studies me for a minute before lowering his hands from my shoulders. Neji stares past me and I turn. Dammit. Gai and Lee are coming . . .
"Beautiful flower of Konoha!" Gai screams.
Lee, equally as exuberant, yells, "Tenten!"
"We'll talk about this later," Neji says.
I scowl. "We'd better . . ."
I can't help but notice the small smirk gracing his lips when he leaves.
I can understand the whoops and the laughs and the smirks, but was a heavy slap on the back really necessary?
Naruto is sunning himself in the open courtyard a few feet away and absently eating potato chips, the smile of an idiot plastered to his face. Shikamaru and Sasuke play shogi and Lee looks like tears of joy are about to spill over his eyes whenever he looks at me.
This is damn annoying. I shouldn't have said anything to begin with.
I've gradually come to the understanding that I like Tenten. Not tolerate or like as just a friend, but like. I was ignoring it for a while, but when the same girl pops up in your dreams for days at a time, at some point you just have to accept the facts and admit it out loud. It took both Shikamaru and Naruto to convince me of it. Naruto even regaled me with his past like of Haruno and what it felt like. In my opinion it was more of a blind infatuation than anything else, but then again I'm no expert in the area of emotion.
Kiba grins at Shino and says, "Who called it?"
"Not you," Chouji replies while munching on chips.
"I totally called in three months ago!"
"Hindsight bias, Kiba."
"I totally did! All you losers, pay up!" Kiba makes a 'gimme' motion with his fingers. When no one moves he glares. "I know some of you guys bet against me on this."
I can feel my annoyance building. "You guys bet on my feelings?" I don't know why I'm so surprised. This is exactly the kind of thing these people would find entertaining.
Shikamaru shrugs unapologetically. "We've got nothing better to do."
Naruto sits up, bracing himself with his elbows. "None of us bet against you, Kiba. It was actually pretty stupid because we all bet the same thing."
"No!" Kiba pulls a small sheet of paper out of his pocket and holds it up for Naruto to see. "Look! Shino and Sasuke bet that he wouldn't like her!"
Sasuke rolls his eyes. "We agreed that we could change bets after observing them the first day."
"That's not how this should work!" he protests.
"What? So I should be punished for not being sentimental like the rest of you?"
"Yes, you anal bi—"
I rub my temples. This was giving me a headache.
"Wait," I say, and look at everyone in turn. Everyone is unexpectedly quiet. "You all could see this happening from the beginning?" I'm met with a round of bland looks.
"It was so obvious!" Naruto says.
It must've been, because this statement was coming from Naruto and Naruto wasn't exactly known for his observational skills.
"And she has a great body." Naruto air mimes the curves with his hands while Kiba snickers and Shikamaru nods.
"Fine. Can we not talk about this anymore?" I can't help but be annoyed and add for good measure, "Don't do that again. Ever."
Sasuke smirks and I want to stab him.
Lee grabs my hand and shakes it vigorously and now the tears do spill over. "I am so happy for you and Tenten-san! To be in love—"
I cut him off quickly. "I never said I was in love."
"But you will be someday!" he says, conviction making his eyes flame.
His naïve expectation was expected but I can't help but muse over his words.
How does anyone know if they'll fall in love with someone? From what I've read, love is some weird emotion that makes you do stupid things and think stupid thoughts. Who would want that? I sure as hell don't. Love makes you weak. Love makes you a weak simpering idiot.
Why does Lee have to bring up love?
Isn't it enough that I like her?
Hell, it's surprising enough I like someone. I don't like anyone.
And to fall in love with someone?
That's a foreign concept all together.
I'm going to tell him I like him tonight.
I am going to tell him.
For sure . . .
I've been standing outside his door for exactly two minutes. Why can't I get up the nerve to knock?
It's not as if I've never liked someone before. Hell, I liked Sasuke at one point. I mean what girl in Konoha didn't have a crush on him at one point? He makes the old ladies swoon too. Of course I've never told anyone. What was that quote? A woman's heart is a labyrinth of secrets? Whatever. I can only imagine what Sakura and Ino would do if they found out. Run away with my old feelings and blow them up to monumental proportions.
I like you.
I like you.
Saying it in my head isn't so bad.
Maybe it gets easier with practice, like throwing a shuriken at a target.
I whip around and Neji is standing a few feet behind me.
"Oh," I look to his door, then back at him. "You weren't in your room?"
"I was out visiting some people." He walks past me and opens his bedroom door. "Did you need something?"
"Well," I begin, "no I don't need anything from you. I just wanted to . . . talk for a bit."
He nods in understanding and opens his door wider for me to follow. "Yes, I think it's about time to finish our conversation from earlier."
Neji comes in after me and I look around his room for a place to sit and, finding none, settle for the edge of his bed.
"I don't entertain many visitors in my room," he says wryly as he joins me.
"I can tell." We're both quiet for a minute so I sigh and say, "About earlier—"
"I think I like you."
I don't comprehend the words for a second and then I yell, "What did you just say!"
Neji stares straight ahead and says, "I think I like you."
The second time around the words seems less foreign.
He shrugs. "I don't know."
"Are . . ." I look at him at a loss for words. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure, Tenten." He scowls and crosses his arms over his chest. "What a stupid thing to say."
Neji, the Hyuuga Neji, likes me. Me. Hyuuga Neji likes ME.
He likes me.
Tenten seems to be in a permanent state of shock.
Is it that weird that I might like her?
I glance at her and her eyes are still wide and her mouth is still slack with surprise.
Apparently it was.
I gently slap her cheek and she starts immediately.
"Well? Are you done staring?"
Tenten seems to get a hold of her composure and launches herself into my arms, her own encircling my shoulders. I'm too surprised to do anything but pat her awkwardly on the back. All at once I discover that it's really awkward hugging when you're sitting right next to each other. We stay like that for a while, not saying anything.
"Are you lying to me?" she asks finally, voice muffled by my hair.
I try to push her away enough for me to see her face but she holds me tighter and I give up.
"I wouldn't lie about something like this," I say patiently.
"I was supposed to say it first. I was prepared. I was so prepared . . ."
"Are you confessing to me now?"
"No. I was supposed to say it first, Neji."
I ignore her faulty logic and draw circles on her back. She shivers in response and pulls away enough to glare.
"There's no point in me saying I like you anymore," she says, her eyes searching my face. "You already know."
"I've known for a while." A few hours counted as 'a while', right?
"What? How? I never told anyone. I wanted you to be the first."
"Just the way you act. My observational skills are top-notch after all." A lie couldn't hurt either.
"You said you think you like me. What the hell does that mean?"
I shrug and maneuver myself so I'm sitting with my back against the headboard. "I've never liked anyone before, Tenten. I don't know what it feels like. I can only assume it feels like this."
She looks at me in confusion. "Then the stuff you mentioned at the training grounds. The part about contentment . . ."
"I was content with the knowledge that I liked you and that you felt similarly, though at the time I didn't know if you had acknowledged it or not."
"Oh." She picks at a loose thread on my bedspread and seems to measure the distance now between us. Tenten frowns and closes it, climbing on my bed and settling next to me with her head on my shoulder. She absently laces her fingers with mine. I don't protest, instead gripping her hand tighter with my own. "So what happens now?" she asks.
I answer honestly: "I don't know. Do you think this will change anything between us?"
Tenten sighs and presses closer to my side. "I hope not. I like what we have. This."
I didn't say it out loud because it was embarrassing, but I liked it too.
More than I wanted to admit.
Tenten suddenly lifts her head and looks at me. "Hey."
"Say it again."
I pretend not to know what she means. "Say what again?"
"You know," she growls. "Don't make me beat it out of you."
I cover my eyes with my free hand and feel my cheeks heating up. "Don't make me repeat myself. It's embarrassing."
"You haven't really said you like me yet. You said you think you do."
"Neither have you," I remind her, lifting my hand from my eyes. She turns red the second my eyes land on her. It's interesting to watch, her reactions to the things I do. "Are you going to change that?"
She seems to think about what I say before taking my hand away from my face and pressing her lips to mine. The kiss is short, shorter than I would've liked, but the whole time I could feel her lips mouthing the words 'I like you' against my own.
A/N: What do you think? Reviews are my happy crack! (I haven't typed that in a few years!)