Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
DEDICATION – I dedicate this story, the whole collection in fact, to all of you who have been so kind over the years in sending me messages, reviewing, commenting, drawing pictures, and just being overall the most supportive and encouraging readers a girl could ask for. Thank you ALL so much for this wonderful experience. Even though there have been some less than pleasant experiences, the good ones have far outweighed the bad, and I am so grateful for that. Writing this collection has been so much fun. I hope you all enjoy this story, and I hope you all stick around longer, because I am certainly never going to be done with my love for NEJITEN.
A special thanks to my good friend Stephanie, aka Rikku9314, for proofreading it for me earlier today. I wasn't really sure how I felt about this chapter when I finished but after she gave me the thumbs up I felt much better. She's the best!
The night was silent, except for a symphony of cicadas playing in the distance, as a tall, lean figure crept stealthily through the darkness of the forest just outside the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Only a fleeting glimmer of white, coming from the glow of a porcelain mask, could be seen in the still black canvas of the night as the man ran at inhuman speeds to reach his destination in time.
Summer had begun only a week earlier, but already the nights were hot and humid. Too hot, in fact, for his liking.
As the lone man landed on the Hokage Monument's now all too familiar sixth head, he gently pushed his suffocating mask aside, grateful for the cool air, high atop the carved mountain. Inhaling deeply, the man closed his eyes and brushed back the long brown strands of hair that softly blew against his pale skin; skin so white it almost rivaled the porcelain mask he had just removed, and was made all the more prominent by the darkness of his clothes.
"You're not really supposed to take those off you know," a deep husky voice called out from behind the long-haired ANBU.
Neji did not turn to face the owner of the voice as he already knew it belonged to the spiky-haired man whom his timid cousin and now clan leader had, against the wishes of the Hyuga Elders, married a few years back. He remained still, his eyes closed as he continued to enjoy the gentle breeze which sadly wasn't doing nearly enough to help cool him down. "Would it make a difference?" he asked, after a moment. He knew it wouldn't, that man's nose was as good as a blood hound's, better even.
"Good point," Kiba chuckled, nodding his head as he approached the Hyuga. "Though I have been fighting off a bit of a cold," he added, sniffing at just the right moment almost as if to reinforce his claim.
Neji turned, eyeing his cousin-in-law skeptically, "I thought idiots never got sick."
There was a brief flash of annoyance in the younger man's eyes, but was quickly replaced by an amused smirk. "Yeah, well goes to show you, I'm a lot smarter than you give me credit for," he boasted, puffing his chest out proudly, thinking that he had actually said something clever.
"Smart enough to catch a cold apparently," the Hyuga replied, smirking triumphantly at the younger man's irritated glare, before returning his mask back to its proper position. As much as he hated to admit it, the dog-boy, as Neji had grown accustomed to referring to the younger man, was right about the mask. They had long since ceased to be boys though, now both in their late twenties. "So did you come just to inform me that you're not as big an idiot as you are?
"Huh?" was Kiba's intelligent reply, before he shook his head roughly, remembering exactly why he had come out searching for the older man. "Nah, Hinata wanted me to invite you and the wifey over tomorrow," he replied. "Well, if you don't already have plans, that is."
"Hn." Neji grunted, acknowledging the request. He didn't think they would have anything planned. The Hyuga's last mission had taken up a full month and he wasn't scheduled to return for at least two more weeks. It was unlikely Tenten would have anticipated his early return. "I'll let her know."
"'Kay," Kiba nodded, turning to leave now that he had accomplished his job, eager to return to his own home, but just as he was about to leap off the monument and head toward the Hyuga compound, he turned back to face Neji. "Oh, and by the way, Happy-" he began, before a dozen sharp kunai came hurdling towards him, abruptly cutting him off as he focused on dodging the steal weapons. "Okay, okay," he chuckled amusedly as he looked up at the glaring Hyuga. "Yeah, I know, I know, tradition," Kiba smirked, getting back up to his feet and brushing himself off. "Good to have you back buddy," he added, as he smacked Neji's shoulder few times before sprinting off the mountain, shaking his head and snickering as he headed for home.
Neji rolled his eyes as he watched the younger man go, but a small smirk couldn't help spread upon his lips. For a brief moment he wondered when exactly the two of them had gotten so close. Was it close? They usually ended up at each other's throats, though generally it was Neji who ended up angered, while the Inuzuka laughed like the idiot that he was. Nevertheless, it was certainly a far cry from where they had originally started, one indifferent to the other and the other hateful and angry. Yes, they had definitely come a long way.
"Speaking of long ways…" The Hyuga mused to himself as he turned towards the opposite direction in which his canine-loving friend had just run off to. Under his mask he smiled contently, his clan's bloodline-limit fully activated, giving him greater vision than he would have normally. From where he was, his house was still a distance away. To the naked eye, only the giant oak tree that grew in the center of his backyard could be seen over the rooftops of the other houses surrounding it. But to Neji's eyes, he could see everything. He could see his beautiful wife, making her way through the house, turning the lights off in all the rooms and making sure all the doors were locked and secured. He wanted nothing more than to quickly rush home, but he still had to check in at the Hokage's office, and Neji knew that would take some time, as Naruto enjoyed hearing every detail of his shinobi's missions as he had long since been unable to take on missions of his own and often missed the excitement of being a regular ninja. By the time he got out, Neji was sure that Tenten would be fast asleep.
And sure enough, when he finally finished with Naruto and arrived at his house, Neji found all the lights off. Since Naruto had been considerate enough to let the Hyuga off lightly, with promises of a lunch later in the week where he would have to recount every event of his month-long mission, Neji had hoped that perhaps Tenten would still be up reading one of her books. It was a habit she had picked up long ago, unwinding from her long days by reading something for at least an hour before going to bed. Unfortunately that was not the case. But it didn't really bother Neji. He was just happy to be home.
Quietly making his way through the house, stopping quickly to peek into the adjoining rooms before heading towards the master bedroom, Neji at last felt released of the tension of his last mission. He quickly jumped into the shower, cleansing himself of the thin layer of dirt and grime covering his skin, as well as refreshing him of the hot summer air. He toweled his hair dry, entered the dark room, quietly changed in the corner of the room into a light blue pair of pajama pants, tossed the towel on a nearby chair and then silently crossed the room over to the large king sized bed.
As he watched the beautiful woman asleep on the left side of the bed, her trademark buns pulled out, long brown hair scattered about like a pool of brown silk, Neji's eyes shifted to just above her head and the bright red digits of their bedside alarm clock. Twelve o' one it read. A minute past midnight. He smiled, grateful that he had made it in time.
Pulling out the sheets on the right side of the bed, Neji slowly snuck into his side of the bed, trying to create as little movement as possible, so as not to wake his beloved wife. He quickly slipped in, pulling the thin summer sheets over him, and then gently curled up behind Tenten, wrapping his arms around her body.
A small moan escaped her lips as she snuggled up against him, smiling contently in her sleep. A similar smile spread across the lips of her husband as Neji pulled his arms tighter around her, inhaling her scent deeply. He had missed her dearly and was happy to finally be home.
In all his twenty eight years of being it was these tiny moments that made him the happiest.
Tomorrow would be a big day. He knew she would be as happy to see him as he was to see her. And in the morning, when their three children rushed into the bedroom to wake her, they would be equally excited to see their daddy there on that special day. And as always, since the year the two teammates had traversed that line from friendship to lovers, Tenten would be the first...
"Mmm," a tiny moan escaped the kunoichi's lips as she sleepily turned in his arms to face him, wrapping her arms around his waist as she drowsily opened her eyes and looked up to him with that brilliantly beautiful smile of hers. "Happy Birthday Neji."
A/N : And that's it... the fourth year working with this same theme made this oneshot a little tricky for me to do and I got stumped with writers block for while. Then one day at 3am the story just kind of came to me, and you know what, I'm really happy with it. I'm glad that this collection ends the way it started. :)
I hope you all enjoyed it. Thank you all for the support in these last FOUR Years (lol get it? Title ;p)... I really appreciate all of your love and support. :D
And once again I just want to thank Stephanie without whom I wouldn't have felt as comfortable posting this and probably would have driven myself mad trying to mess with and rewrite, and totally missed the deadline ;p thanks!