Word Count: 8801
Type: One-shot (Complete)
Rating: T (Suitable for teens, 13 years and older, with some violence, minor coarse language, and minor suggestive adult themes)
Summary: Revelations are dangerous things, as Sakura was just starting to find out. They could turn your peaceful life upside down and inside out, even if it wasn't your revelation in the first place. Damn Neji.
A/N: Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote this. It was one of those 'go with the flow' moments that I was in and even I was quite surprised when it came out so lengthy. Anyway, Revelation was written right after Beginnings but I didn't upload it immediately because I wasn't quite satisfied with how it had turned out. So I have tweaked it about upside down and inside out and nitpicked for quite awhile already…and I'm still not quite certain about the quality but what the heck. Just take this one-shot as a little extra from my uploading craze.
Enjoy this if you can, folks.
Chapter Last Revised on: 29/10/07
"Go out with me."
Of all the things he could say, this was definitely not supposed to be it.
At least, it was not what Sakura would have expected coming from his mouth and directed to her, of all people.
So it really was a good thing that she was not holding a scalpel or something equally lethal in her hand, for if not she probably would have sliced open some major artery of the male whom she was currently doing a brief checkup on. It was also a good thing for said male that the nature of the sentence, no command, had been so unexpected that the normally fast-reacting kunoichi was for once, at a total loss for words.
Twenty-year old Haruno Sakura could only gape at the calm, nonchalant face of Hyuuga Neji, one of the greatest prodigies in Konoha and ninja extraordinaire. At the moment though, the petite female was having serious doubts about the Hyuuga being extraordinary in anything and promptly asked if he had suffered from any concussions recently. Unfortunately for the poor kunoichi, the distinguished captain of the famous Konoha ANBU did not appear to respond to her disbelieving question, nor did he suddenly grin cheesily at her and yell "Just Kidding!".
No, her regular bad-tempered patient/irritant for the past five years or so merely decided to declare his not-so-professional interest in her.
"I wish to court you, Haruno Sakura." His silvery eyes were affixed steadily on her own wide emerald ones and the way they did not waver with uncertainty or nervousness quickly explained to her why he had suddenly volunteered for a medical checkup today when normally a herd of elephants would not be able to drag him to the hospital even when he was badly injured.
"Why?" She blurted out with more than a little incomprehension.
Sakura frowned slightly as the sleekly built Hyuuga unfolded his tall form from the examining table and casually buttoned up his shirt, his intense gaze never leaving her bewildered ones for once. The kunoichi wondered hazily if he had always possessed such a compelling presence, and why she had never noticed it before. Then she forcibly cleared her head and decided that she probably never noticed this side of him because he was normally acting like a petulant, overgrown baby whenever she saw him—which was every time he happened to return to Konoha injured from a particularly difficult mission.
Belatedly, it occurred to Sakura that this side of Neji that she was seeing now was his ANBU side; the sheer confidence and determination in those intense silver eyes were simply unmistakable. It made the pink-haired kunoichi wonder what the hell was going on in that complicated head of his. Sure she knew that being ANBU was a very stressful occupation and that being captain all but tripled the stress factor but hello?!! Why did he have to suffer a mental breakdown on her, of all people to go crazy on?
Neji didn't seem to want to answer her hastily delivered question but that was perfectly alright for Sakura; the kunoichi had decided that she had gotten everything figured out. There was simply no way that someone like him (stoic, levelheaded and cool-tempered Hyuuga Neji) would be interested in her, the pink-headed, annoying, overly cheerful and all around feisty Haruno Sakura. Somehow she had always been under the impression that this particular ANBU captain would have been more interested in females who were more…emotionally docile and less…driven by their impulses, whatever they may be.
Yes, something was definitely not right with Neji today. Sakura really didn't believe that it was quite normal for even someone as odd as him to go about suddenly eager to date one of the many banes in his life. Perhaps he was under a genjutsu and was convinced that she was someone else?
Even as logic dictated to her that the Hyuuga clan's indomitable Byakugan could see through all sorts of illusions Sakura suddenly could not wait to foist him off onto another medic-nin. This entire situation was just too odd for her to handle, and just wait until she told Ino! The blonde would probably snort in disbelief and tell her to keep dreaming.
"Anou, Neji…" Sakura's decidedly well meaning speech about directing him to an excellent genjutsu specialist tapered off to an abrupt halt when she suddenly realized the overwhelming proximity of the Hyuuga male. How had he managed to move so closely to her without alerting any of her sharp senses? Why, he was now so near that there was hardly a feet between the two of them!
She could even pick up his masculine scent from here…the mildest tint of fresh mint and earthy forest…
And Sakura of the iron senses promptly turned bright red.
"Wh-what do you think you are doing?!" The medic-nin sputtered, her voice pitched slightly higher than normal and her emerald eyes darting nervously to the closed door at the other end of the examining room. She should never have shut that door; this was going to be so embarrassing for her when Neji snaps out of whatever the hell he was currently steeped in.
"Listen, Neji." Sakura shrilled when he took a predatory step forward. The alarmed kunoichi quickly backed up to compensate, throwing her hands up to stop him from following her. To her relief, he merely tilted his head the barest angle to the right, looking for all the world like a curious wolf regarding the odd antics of a particularly scatter-brained rabbit.
Sakura scowled mentally as a ridiculous image of herself dressed in a sexy bunny outfit being chased by a wolfish-looking Neji surfaced in her mind. She pinkened abruptly as the role-play potential of the flirtatious picture occurred to her and quickly beat out the appalling image with a mental bat almost immediately, a flushed look on her face. That was oddly…kinky.
"L…listen Neji," Sakura blurted out quickly. "You aren't yourself now, alright? You need to-"
"I assure you that I am perfectly sane." The powerful Hyuuga cut through her mumblings before she could draw anymore of her absurd conclusions.
Sakura did not look like she believed him; in fact, she looked like she thought him perfectly self-delusional.
"I had a revelation." Neji announced abruptly.
That caught Sakura's attention.
The kunoichi looked at the coffee-haired ANBU cautiously. Something told her that wasn't a very good thing for Neji. Revelations were probably very shocking things to someone as straitlaced and phlegmatic as the Hyuuga.
"…and?" The petite female ventured warily when he did not appear to want to elaborate.
By now his gaze upon her was so intense that Sakura had no idea what to make of it. She would probably have felt pretty nonplussed about the whole thing too, if not for the fact that his stare was making it a little harder for her to breathe, and the air around her suddenly felt oh so very stuffy. Odd, but who turned on the radiator in the middle of summer?
"And I saw you."
Now Sakura was really starting to believe that she had somehow teleported to some alternate universe without her knowing it. Neji and his cryptic talking in circles weren't helping at all, and when Sakura starts to get confused…things have a habit of starting to get ugly real fast.
Sakura really did not appreciate whatever game the Hyuuga was trying to play with her. She started to scowl up at the male (who had somehow managed to get closer again!! How did he keep doing that?!).
"That's it!" The pretty kunoichi growled, her irritation effectively pushing aside her growing apprehension and allowing her inner self to clearly shine through. "What on earth do you think you are doing, Hyuuga Neji?"
As if her indignation had somehow assured him (of what she had no idea), said Hyuuga relaxed his gaze and had gall to shrug—shrug, damn it—at her!! Oh, she so wanted to break something at the moment, preferably the scrawny neck of his that was probably having some trouble supporting his big head.
"I told you already; I wish to court you." Neji reiterated patiently, as if speaking to a particularly slow child. Sakura promptly saw red.
"No!" The pink-haired female lost her temper. This man was simply unbelievable! How anyone would even want to set up a fanclub solely for him she would never understand. He was so bloody arrogant! "I really don't care about your revelation or whatnot; just leave me the hell out of it! How dare you come here and waste my time simply because you are having some sort of identity crisis? Just for that I would never even allow you near me, let alone let you court me-"
Sakura really wanted to take this chance to air out more of her displeasure, but before she could do so the stunned kunoichi quickly found herself jumped on by none other than Mr. Confounding himself. Faster than she could see she was suddenly wrapped around a taut, sleekly muscled torso, and as it is she barely had time to gasp aloud before the owner of said torso leant down and claimed her soft, parted lips with his own.
Sakura stiffened as she felt warm arms wrap snugly around her waist to pull her closer and knew instinctively that she ought to fight what was obviously a blatant invasion of her privacy. She was equally dismayed when she did no such thing, and was bewildered to find herself melting willingly against the tall male who currently seemed to have his lips tightly fused to hers.
The kiss was like nothing she had ever experienced. It wasn't openly aggressive, nor was it overly chaste. Neji did not take advantage of her parted lips but there was definitely a touch of carnality in the way his lips lazily rubbed against hers. His tongue probed and traced her luscious lips, gently coaxing her to respond to his sensual ministrations. Sakura was too dazed by the sudden turn of events to react to him but Neji was hardly discouraged. He merely nipped the side of her mouth sharply, eliciting a surprised jerk from the petite female in his arms before laving his attention on the slight mark that he had left on her, sucking and quietly soothing it away.
Her knees went understandably weak, and she blindly clutched at his biceps in an effort to regain her balance.
Neji's silvery gaze was decidedly satisfied when he ended the sudden kiss and saw the slightly glazed look in Sakura's eyes. The small female was still leaning completely against him though he was quite sure that she was not fully aware of her own actions just yet. A faint, barely discernible smirk graced his handsome, aquiline features.
"I think not." Neji's rich baritone voice, tinged with the slightest hint of masculine smugness, drew Sakura successfully back to the land of the living. Almost as if someone had just threw a bucket of ice water over her head, the kunoichi gasped, blinked, and immediately tore herself out of the Hyuuga's startlingly intimate embrace.
"Y…You!!" She was bristling like a riled up kitten, pure emerald eyes shooting sparks of outrage. He had just kissed her to prove a point, the bloody ass!! Sakura was all prepared to punch him all the way to Kirigakure but she was certainly not prepared to see the small genuine smile that had appeared on his lips. The sexy tilt of his lips made him appear even more handsome than anyone should be allowed to look (damn it!) and damn near took her breath away (triple damn!). And what made her pause totally and at the same time made her mind go blank was that look in his eyes! The mild amusement as well as the unguarded warmth in those normally impassive silvery depths was a combination that she had never seen before on him, and she was so affected by it that all her thoughts and anger slipped away from her.
Sakura had not been aware that she was still gaping in surprise at Neji, but Neji did. The warmth in his eyes increased further as he lifted a hand to her chin to gently nudge her mouth close.
"Why?" Sakura breathed the single-worded question.
She held her breath when his compelling eyes seemed to intensify at her question, the look on his face intent and watchful as ever. He leant down slowly towards her once more and to her shock, Sakura found herself lurching up towards him as well. Her eyes glazed over once more as his lips caressed the sensitive skin of her jaw, and she emitted a small whimper. When had he become so…enigmatic?!
The stunningly tender exchange ended as quickly as it had begun, and like the first time, Neji easily ignored her bewildered question. The Hyuuga straightened to his impressive height and looked down upon the dazed features of the beautiful kunoichi, his eyes tracing each of her delicate features with an almost possessive gleam that she failed to detect.
"I will see you around, Sakura." Neji's baritone was rich with promise, and the way his tongue curled around her name had her shivering with anticipation. Suddenly struck dumb by the unbelievable situation that she had found herself in the pink-haired kunoichi watched speechlessly as the powerful ANBU captain strode out of the examining room, the traces of warmth that she had detected earlier bled away to be replaced by sheer impassiveness and keen awareness.
The shell-shocked kunoichi stood blankly for another minute or so before she saw fit to stagger over to the nearest chair and promptly collapsed noisily upon it.
What the hell had just happened?
The next few days caused poor Sakura more grief than she had ever had for years.
Suddenly, he was everywhere.
Sakura really have no idea what Neji was trying to accomplish but people were starting to notice. It wasn't a common sight for Hyuuga geniuses to go about stalking beautiful pink-haired medic-nins after all. Of course, she had naturally tried her very best to evade Neji's attempts to corner her and she had succeeded most of the time too, thanks to the fact that she was a natural workaholic and even though the Byakugan might be able to detect her from as far as a kilometer away there was no way its owner could get to her if she so chose to bury herself deep within the confines of the hospital. Sakura was really starting to get very frustrated by the knowing looks that fellow friends and colleagues were sending her way, and it hadn't even mattered when she had told them repeatedly that there was nothing going on between them! Even Naruto, probably the most oblivious of the lot, had enquired with a sassy leer if there was anything that she wasn't telling him. If she didn't love her fox brother as much as she did she would have punted him all the way across the desert to Suna.
It also wasn't helping matters much that she could not seem to get the memories of Neji's kiss out of her mind. She could not forget the way his lips had felt pressed possessively against hers, the way they rubbed sweetly against her own as he slowly coaxed her response, the way his heady scent seemed to fill her head and make her think of nothing else-
Sakura growled inwardly as she stalked down the hallway of the hospital. This was not helping matters at all!! She was so grouchy and disgruntled these days that none of her staff wanted to be near her unless it was absolutely necessary. Those cowards.
She could hardly concentrate on her work if she kept worrying about Hyuuga Neji and the mind games that he was playing with her. Sakura flushed scarlet as she recalled that heart-thumping, heavy-lidded look that he had sent her way that day in the examining room; pale, pale eyes glinting with a hint of wicked mischief as he confirmed to her what she had already guessed on her own. He was well known among the ANBU for his bulldogged tenacity, and combining that with the fact that he had been raised to be assertive and arrogant like most males in his clan it was no surprise that Sakura was more than a little worried about Neji's true intentions.
Yes, it was also true that this strange chain of events had introduced her to an entirely new side of the stoic Hyuuga that she would never have thought existed thanks to his infamous one-dimensional personality, but she honestly didn't think that the dangerously playful behavior that she just realized that he was actually capable of was doing her any good. It made her nervous and threw her off entirely because it was nearly impossible for her to predict what he would do next. In the past, she would tease him in a playful, almost childish manner and the most that he would do was to grumble and snap at her like the grouchy patient that he was. Now, there was a high possibility that he would retaliate by pulling her to him for a long, hard kiss, and what's worse was that she didn't seem to mind at all that he was taking advantage of her.
Sakura started to turn a bright furious red. And sure, she had long known that he was well-known for being an intense individual, but wasn't this a little too much?! She could hardly breathe under his heated stare as it is!!
It was really a miracle that he didn't seem to be attached at all. That random thought kept her occupied for awhile, and Sakura decided that any interested females (and those were definitely not lacking in numbers) must have been scared off by that awful look on his face that suggested that he had been sucking on lemons ever since the day he was born.
Which brought her to her question; why then, was he suddenly so interested in her?
They had known each other since Genins, she had worked with him, on him since she was fifteen and he had never shown any interest in her. Come to think of it, like Sasuke once was, he had never seemed to be particularly interested in relationships before. Until now, that is.
What had changed?
Sakura sighed softly as she began her rounds around the ward. The kunoichi tried to smooth away the frown on her face but to no avail. This was so complicated; what she wouldn't give to take a peek into his mind, that troublesome man.
Sakura really did growl out loud this time and gave her errant mind a fierce shake for extra measure. Why was she thinking of him all the time? A kunoichi was supposed to stay alert at all times, and a good medic-nin has to stay objective and level-headed to perform his or her best. She was an exceptional kunoichi and an even better medic-nin; she shouldn't be lusting after one Hyuuga Neji like some embarrassing fangirl just because he had laid a couple of kisses on her!!!
Sakura sighed gustily. She checked her watch. Five fifteen p.m. Another forty-five minutes to go before her shift ended. She had learnt from the ANBU duty list that Neji's team was on a mission today (thank the gods) and was therefore confident enough to meet Naruto and Hinata at Ichiraku for dinner later, but until she knocked off from work she was reduced to boring ward patrols and occupying her empty mind with thoughts of 'how comes' and the 'whys' that came each time she thought of Hyuuga Neji and what the hell the daft man thought he was doing playing this type of games with her.
Sakura sighed once more.
Woe is definitely her, to have snagged the attention of one of the most eligible bachelors in Konoha and not having a clue on what to do about it.
"Sakura-chan!!! Over here!!!"
It was hard to miss Naruto's frantic waving, not to mention his bright orange jumpsuit whose brightness was only partially dimmed by his Jounin vest as well as the fact that he was seated around Ichiraku's largest table. Slightly harried by the fact that she was actually late, Sakura did not manage to take a good look at the occupants around the table until she had hurried her way into the crowded shop.
"Ah, sorry I was late, guys." Sakura accidentally dropped her packet onto the floor and had to bend down to pick it up. Her muffled voice carried across the entire table. "I was kinda held up by the hospital."
Sakura stood up then, package in hand. "But I did remember to bring the umeboshi that you wanted, Hinata-chan. Here it is-"
Sakura's brain stuttered to a halt when cool pale eyes met hers. Emerald orbs widened imperceptibly at the lanky ANBU who was sitting across the table.
"Yeah, he is, and so are Tenten and Lee." Naruto looked at his best friend oddly. "Are you ok, Sakura-chan?"
Sakura tore her gaze from the silent Hyuuga and blinked at her fox brother. She hadn't been aware that she had spoken out loud. Then she looked around the table, and saw the smiling faces of Rock Lee and Tenten.
"Haha…I'm fine." No, I'm not. I'm just stunned like hell to see Neji here. It was actually at the tip of her tongue to demand to know what the Hyuuga was doing in Ichiraku when he should be off somewhere on duty, but common sense curbed her impulse; to ask such a question would be akin to admitting to all (him included) that she had been specifically checking up on him, and that simply would not do.
"Well…that's good to hear. You looked kinda spaced out for a moment. We were all waiting for you to arrive; so I will go order now. The usual for you?" Naruto asked eagerly. Sakura nodded distractedly.
"Yeah, thanks." Sakura watched Naruto lope off to place their orders before turning her attention to the occupants around the table.
"Hey, Sakura-chan!" Lee greeted enthusiastically.
Beside her boyfriend, Tenten's grin widened slightly at the almost dazed look on Sakura's face as she absently smiled a greeting before her emerald eyes darted back to land on the impassive Hyuuga. So all the rumors were true after all! There was definitely something going on between Sakura and that old block of wood also known as their ex-teammate. No wonder Neji had agreed to come to this little dinner gathering out of the blue when he would normally have preferred to head off to the training areas whenever a mission was cancelled. Wait till Lee hears of this, he wouldn't believe it! Tenten kinda felt sorry for the poor female though; knowing Neji's lack of tact Sakura probably still didn't know what had hit her.
"Umm…umeboshi huh?" Tenten eyed the white packet still held loosely in Sakura's hand, amber eyes dancing with hidden mirth. "I haven't had those pickled fruits for a long time. Where did you buy them from?"
The weapons specialist's question did manage to pull Sakura out of her stupor, and she pinkened slightly at her own uncharacteristic behavior. She wanted to hide somewhere and knock her head against the wall repeatedly. She could not keep freezing up like this every time he leveled his silvery gaze on her!! Someone was bound to notice her odd tendencies, keen-eyed ninjas that they were all trained to be. Damn Neji for being here; she wasn't quite ready to see him yet! She didn't think that she ever would!
"Erm…" What was Tenten asking again?
"Oh!" Hinata decided to help Sakura out. The quiet female wasn't completely cured of her speech impairment yet, but she seldom stuttered in the presence of friends anymore, thanks to Naruto's help and encouragement. She too was curious when Neji-niisan had suddenly appeared in Ichiraku with his ex-teammates, but now she knew the reason why he was here. Hinata wasn't blind; she too had noticed how Neji-niisan's gaze was concentrated on Sakura ever since she had arrived at the ramen stall. The pretty female smiled inwardly. Neji-niisan was never subtle when it came to what he wanted.
The Hyuuga heiress smiled shyly at the pink-haired medic-nin as she took the packet from Sakura. "Sakura-chan made it herself, and they are delicious. Domo, Sakura-chan."
Sakura shook her head at Hinata. "It's alright; I couldn't have finished all those by myself anyway." She turned to an interested Tenten next. "I can bring you some to try next time as well, Tenten."
The older female inclined her head, a wry grin on her face. "If it isn't too troublesome for you, Sakura, I'd appreciate that. Well-pickled umeboshi are hard to find these days, and now that you mention it, I seemed to have developed a strange craving for them."
Lee turned to his girlfriend then, his eyes wide. "Why, my lovely Tenten! You never told me that you liked umeboshi!" The taijutsu master jumped up from his seat, punching one fist in the air. "Yosh!! Have no fear, my love; for the Springtime of Youth will prevail!! I will learn how to make the delicious pickled fruits for your pleasure and I will learn how to make it within fifteen minutes!! If I fail I will-"
Lee never got the chance to finish, for Naruto had returned and with a quick thump to the man's head, quickly tamped down his boundless enthusiasm. Slightly dazed from the painful thump, Lee sank back onto his chair with a soft grunt. Tenten mouthed a 'thank you' to the cheerful blonde and returned to fussing over her unbelievably hyper boyfriend. It was all Sakura could do not to laugh at the odd couple.
"Well Sakura-chan, what are you doing still standing here?" Naruto regarded his best friend with his hands on his hips. "Get over there and take a seat beside Neji!"
Sakura twitched slightly. She really wasn't prepared for this, and as luck would have it, the only seat available was the one beside the one person she did not want to encounter right now. Resigned, the pink-haired kunoichi smiled stiltedly at Naruto and made her way to the Hyuuga's side, eyes flickering on everything except him.
Neji was doing the exact opposite. The ANBU stared blatantly at the female who had just taken a seat beside him. Sakura was still studiously avoiding his gaze, and he frowned.
"Sakura." It was a good thing that the others were preoccupied watching Lee as he lectured Naruto about how hitting innocent people on the head would take away their 'Springtime Youth'. Sakura quickly pretended that she did not hear the Hyuuga and that she too was engrossed in watching both her friends' antics with each other.
Pale eyes narrowed imperceptibly, and Sakura should have known that Neji wasn't going to leave things as it is.
"Sakura. Did you not hear me calling you?" He raised his voice an octave this time, and it was enough to catch the attention of all their friends. Well, that and the fact that he had her chin in his hand and was lifting her gaze to meet his. Sakura's face burned when she heard Lee asking Tenten why their ex-teammate was manhandling their 'Cherry Blossom of Youth'.
"H-Hyuuga!!" Sakura hissed as she batted away his hand. "What are you doing?!"
He did not understand her mortification. He had other things to worry about. "You have been avoiding me. Why?"
Sakura's jaw dropped open at his flat question. Was he so dense that he had to ask why? Her emerald eyes darted frantically to where their attentive friends were seating. "What the hell are you talking about, Hyuuga! Is there something wrong with you?"
It was obvious that Sakura was doing everything within her might to cue the ANBU not to speak about their oddball relationship anymore, but Neji totally blew past her frantic looks. He nodded grimly at her.
"You are right. There is something wrong with me." The Hyuuga agreed bluntly, much to the kunoichi's shock. "You."
By now, they both had the undivided attention of all four of their friends. Hinata and Tenten exchanged slight smiles. It had certainly taken Neji long enough. Naruto whooped loudly, attracting the attention of all the patrons in Ichiraku. "I never thought you had it in you to take on our Sakura-chan!! Gambatte na, Neji!"
Neji ignored the idiot blonde as well as the thumbs-up signs that the other Green Beast of Konoha was flashing him enthusiastically. He continued staring at this woman who had occupied his thoughts more than it should be allowed. Sakura merely looked aghast by everything. She needed to get away, to think about what was going on. She jumped up from her seat.
"You know what," Sakura muttered. "I think that I'm kinda tired-"
The ANBU captain stood up as well. "That might be as well. We should settle everything in privacy. At your house."
For a long moment Sakura could only gape at the Hyuuga's audacity. Then she started to glare at him. Does he have any idea how this looks to all of their friends?!
Neji paid no heed to the fierce glower the petite female was giving him. He nodded his goodbyes to Naruto and the rest and started to leave the stall. Sakura's emerald eyes narrowed. He could leave all he wants, he can't make her-
"Perhaps you are waiting for my assistance, Sakura?" The male's calm voice floated to the kunoichi.
Sakura stiffened. Emerald eyes widened, then narrowed into slits just as quickly. Was he trying to threaten her with eternal embarrassment? Suddenly Sakura did not feel as apprehensive around the Hyuuga as she had earlier on. No, that worried feeling was quickly changing into something else. Something more powerful. Something better.
She was going to kill the Hyuuga.
Naruto watched as his best friend erupt in black flames of ire and was suddenly very glad that he was, for once, not going to be the recipient of her anger. The blonde admired Neji for being daring enough to take on this powerhouse of femininity. The pink-haired medic-nin was normally very sweet-tempered; Neji must be feeling very confident to be pricking Sakura's temper like that.
With an absentminded gesture of farewell towards the remaining two couples, the annoyed Sakura dashed after Neji, muttering "Oh, he is so dead!" as she all but chased after the taller male. They all watched her go.
"Ah!! Youthful love." Lee sighed at last when both of his friends disappeared out of sight. "I am so happy for Neji now that he has finally found his Spring!"
Tenten rolled her eyes. Neji would be lucky if Sakura didn't have to hand him his teeth by the time this day is through. He really didn't have any tact at all, did he? Can't he just confess his affections like most normal people?
Naruto merely grinned. Neji wasn't technically a bad person even though he could be a stick-in-the-mud and just as grouchy sometimes. In his opinion Sakura could do so much worst, and besides haven't the sparks between them been flying high and bright for almost a couple of years already? Naruto was actually surprised that it had taken so long for Neji to take action; the normally astute Hyuuga appeared to be particularly stunted in the emotional department, it seems. In other words, the Kyuubi Jinchuriki gave his blessings to both of his closest friends. Somebody had to be there for Sakura anyhow. The Hyuuga might just be the one for the job and besides, now that the both of them had renege on their dinner gathering…
"Yosh! All the more ramen for me!" The blonde smiled cheerfully. This was really turning into a good night. He was going to have his ramen, he had his adoring girlfriend beside him, his best friend was somewhere out there with her newly acquired boyfriend, and they were probably going to be very happy once they got over the 'wanting to beat the crap out of each other' part, so what was there not to be happy about?
Hinata stared at her boyfriend with affectionate exasperation. If he wasn't so adorable she didn't know what she would have done with his downright unnatural obsession with ramen. Hinata shook her head inwardly. Neji-niisan…and Sakura-chan, huh? Their personalities really clash horribly, but maybe, maybe, they might just complement each other after all, the pale-eyed girl mused. At least, Hinata knew for sure that Sakura-chan would be good for him. Gambatte kudasai, Neji-nii.
Tenten and Hinata exchanged small smiles as both their male counterparts fussed over the bowls of ramen that had just arrived. Hinata opened the white package that Sakura had passed to her earlier. She held it out to the weapons mistress.
"Would you like to have some umeboshi?"
Sakura fumed all the way back to her apartment.
She could have easily confronted Neji right outside Ichiraku of course, but Sakura wasn't stupid, nor was she prone to dramatics. There was no way in hell she would have willingly spilled the dynamics of their relationship (or lack thereof according to Sakura) to everyone who cared to hear about it while enjoying a bowl of Ichiraku's ramen, and Neji had counted on that, much to the growing fury of the petite kunoichi.
They reached the entrance of her home in record time (how the coffee-haired Jounin knew where she lived she didn't want to know), and Neji watched expressionlessly as Sakura glared at him.
"You are angry."
Sakura's left eyelid twitched. That was an understatement if she ever heard of one, and what made her even more furious was the utterly unruffled look on his face. It was as if he didn't realize what he had done, or if he did, he simply didn't care. Just thinking of the possibilities made Sakura want to strangle the male standing right before her more than ever.
Ooh, the Hyuuga had better be prepared for bloodshed! A lot of it! Sakura had quite a big bone to pick with him.
"Do you know what trouble you have just gotten us into?" The pink-haired kunoichi hissed softly at last, emerald eyes alit with fire. Her cheeks were flushed, she was trembling slightly with her agitation, and the way she was pursing her lips with irritation mesmerized him. Her anger was oddly appealing as usual, and Neji found that it was hard for him to look away from her bewitching gaze.
He didn't say anything; merely continued looking at her, and apparently that was all the encouragement she needed.
"Do you know that everyone is going to think that we have something going on between us now, Hyuuga?" Sakura asked sharply. "You have a clan reputation to uphold, don't you? Did you actually think of the consequences of your words before you blurt everything out in public?"
Neji continued looking inscrutably at her. So she thought that he was one to 'blurt' things out unintentionally. Well, it would be very easy to correct her assumption.
"Actually," he deigned to speak at last, his voice cultured and unaffected by her volatile blasts of emotions. "I did consider the consequences."
Sakura gaped at him with disbelief. "You knew what would happen and you still went and did it all the same?" Her voice was pitched a little higher than normal, and oh, the urge to punch him now was so very overwhelming. Just what was Neji hiding up his sleeve?
Sakura opened her mouth as if wanting to say something, then quickly closed it again when nothing came out. She glared at him and put her hands on her hips, the universal sign of feminine impatience. "Why? Why did you do that for, Hyuuga? "
Neji did not like the way she had suddenly taken to addressing him by his last name for the past hour. His brow furrowed, and Sakura narrowed her eyes when he took too long to answer.
Pale silvery eyes sharpened on her annoyed ones. "I think that we are past the stage of addressing each other by our surnames, don't you think, Sakura?"
Sakura looked totally nonplussed for a moment.
Here she was worrying about their reputation or lack thereof and he was just standing there bringing up the most inane topics!! The twitching on her eyelid increased in frequency. And stage? Past what stage? The only thing that they had done was that one kiss!!
Oh…but what a kiss it was…
Suddenly Sakura wanted to break down and laugh at the incredulity of her situation.
Didn't he know that he was confusing her?
The uncertainty that had accompanied her the past few days became too unbearable, and Sakura deflated piteously.
"Why are you doing all this, Neji?" Sakura asked softly at last. "I don't understand why-"
"Do you?" Neji cut off her question, his eyes dark and intent and absolutely focused on her. "Do you really not understand why?"
Sakura had the grace to flush. Well, theoretically she did understand what was going on per se, but that wasn't what she had meant.
"No, what I want to know is why now?" The pink-haired kunoichi pressed on stubbornly. "You have never shown any interest before, so why now? Why…me?"
"Why not?" Neji asked her simply in return.
"Hyuuga Neji…" The riled up kunoichi growled warningly. She wasn't in the mood to play the who-can-irritate-the-other-the-most game that they had always engaged in whenever the ANBU landed himself in the hospital under her care.
Neji merely gave his head the barest of a shake.
"No, I mean it. Why not?"
Sakura was disconcerted by his question. Why not, indeed?
Her keen mind quickly raced for the most suitable answer…and came up pitifully blank. Worst of all was the barely amused look in his eyes that told her that he knew it as well.
"But you…you are a Hyuuga!" Sakura quickly sputtered out in desperation.
The amused look became a little more obvious, much to her chagrin. "And you are a Haruno." Neji retorted mildly. "What exactly are you trying to imply?"
Sakura was now desperately clinging to the fraying threads of her temper—and patience.
"What am I trying to imply?" She echoed dumbly. Then her eyes sharpened with renewed annoyance and she glared at the tall male who was currently making a nuisance of himself right outside her front door. "Oh, I don't know, maybe the fact that your family is the most prestigious ninja clan in Konoha whereas I come from only a family of normal civilians? Shouldn't you be off somewhere pursuing some rich heiress or even an imperial court princess to add to the Hyuuga name?"
Immediately, the mildly incredulous look that appeared on Neji's face quickly told Sakura how ridiculous he thought of her absurd conclusion, and Sakura started to feel more than a little silly airing out her baseless assumptions. "I mean," The kunoichi mumbled. "Aren't there some clan rules about who you can date and who you can't?"
The pinkening look on her heart-shaped face quickly told him that she was utterly embarrassed about her faux pas and Neji could not help but smile slightly at her wild postulations. She had always possessed such a wild imagination, and the amusing thing was that it always got her in trouble more often than not. Neji found that trait of hers particularly endearing most of the time.
"The Hyuuga clan is certainly large." He allowed at last, silvery still glinting with amusement. "But contrary to popular belief Hiashi-sama does not make a good matchmaker, nor is he aspiring to be one in the near future."
Apparently Neji's attempt to ease Sakura's embarrassment worked; for the image of the stoic Hyuuga clan head trying his hand at matchmaking was simply too ludicrous to even comprehend. The ANBU captain watched with a strange sense of elation as the kunoichi relaxed her stance slightly and allowed a small, reluctant smile.
"Now that we have got that settled, tell me the real reason why you have been studiously avoiding me for the past few days."
Immediately, it was on the tip of her tongue to deny his charge but he was simply far too sharp for her to even try to attempt to pull any sort of wool over those 'all-seeing' eyes of his. Sakura sighed noisily and shook her head.
"I don't take well to the type of surprise that you have sprung on me, Neji." Sakura admitted honestly, head bowed slightly and voice sounding somewhat bewildered. "All of a sudden, you wanted to 'go out' with me. Why would you be interested in someone like me? We have been arguing up and down for years, heck, that's the only sort of interaction we share with each other-"
"That's not true." Neji insisted before the pink-haired kunoichi could come up with anymore harebrained conclusion that it was simply impossible between them. Immediately Sakura lifted up her head to stare at the Hyuuga with surprise.
"Alright, then." The kunoichi relented with great exasperation when Neji didn't seem to want to elaborate. "But you will have to tell me what else we have done together, because I really have no recollection of anything beyond the fact that we live to irritate the other."
Neji merely looked at the Sakura for the longest of time, and his gaze was so probing and intense that it was all the kunoichi could do not to fidget.
"Are you going to stand there and stare at me all night?" Sakura burst out in a fine fit of annoyance when she could not stand his staring anymore. "Well?"
"I believe," Neji started deliberately at last. "That we have kissed but four days ago, haven't we? Or at least I was under that very impression. I certainly hadn't been irritated at all by that pleasant interlude. Were you?"
Then Sakura's cheeks turned so red that she resembled a porcelain doll. The kunoichi promptly brought her head down and refused to look Neji in the eye.
"That was…different!" Sakura sputtered under her curtain of long pink hair. She was very sure that he would see the fleeting flash of heated desire in her eyes if she so much as dared to lift her head. "That was just one time; and we don't do that often!"
Neji could not help but smirk at the wide opening that she had given him. Hooking an index finger under her chin, his thumb coaxed her to lift her head up to meet his gaze. "We can do it more often if you like, and you haven't answered my question, Sakura. Were you irritated by the kiss?"
Sakura's expression took on the look of a trapped animal, and her eyes darted everywhere except on Neji's face.
Unbeknownst to the worried female, Neji shifted closer to her, taking a whiff of the familiar scent of apples as he did so. Thumb still gently stroking the graceful curve of her jaw, his eyes softened at the confused look on her face.
A part of him knew that he was being grossly unfair, that he was all but intimidating her into admitting her feelings for him but he was not the least apologetic about it. He had never been one to beat about the bush, and the fleeting kiss that they had shared that day had all but confirmed to him that his rousing attention was hardly a one-sided affair. Yes, Neji was just speeding up the recognition process a little and although he didn't really see it as bullying the fierce-tempered and passionate kunoichi he promised himself all the same to make it up to her afterwards—in a way that would prove to be quite pleasurable for the both of them.
His silvery eyes darkened at the thought. That one kiss those four days ago had really been far too fleeting for his liking. She had been everything that he had allowed himself to imagine—and so much more.
"I didn't find it irritating." Sakura allowed cautiously at last.
"No, you didn't." Neji agreed; his baritone voice rich and low. "You enjoyed it, didn't you?"
Once more, Sakura's flush deepened and she didn't even make an attempt to deny it anymore. What use was there in denying when he already knew the truth? And what was he playing at? Face hot and getting even warmer, Sakura promptly batted away Neji's hand and quickly took a hasty step away from him.
"Alright! Stop drawing it out bit by bit already!" The frustrated kunoichi all but shouted. "I admit that I liked kissing you, Hyuuga Neji, alright? I admit that you made my knees go weak, and I want you to kiss me again, as terrifying as the thought sounds. I admit that I might even like you if you weren't such an arrogant ass but guess what? I just don't think that we will work out, alright?"
"And why not?" Neji seized on the topic immediately, his pale eyes glinting sharply in a demanding stare.
Sakura glared at the deliberately obtuse Hyuuga.
"Haven't you heard a thing earlier? All we ever do is argue!! How is that for a long lasting relationship?"
"I happen to like arguing with you, Sakura." Neji admitted baldly, much to the kunoichi's surprise. "You think quickly on your toes and are normally just too sharp to miss anything. Why do you think that you are the only medic I have allowed to take my case time and again?" Then his frank gaze turned half-lidded as he stared intently at her face. "Not to mention the fact that I happen to find the way you behave when your feathers are ruffled interesting…and very alluring."
His candid opinion stunned her.
Neji inclined his head. "I did, and so did you. Do not even try to delude yourself into denying it."
Sakura was still so shocked by this sudden turn in their conversation that she could only nod slowly in agreement. "I did look forward to all our exchanges." The kunoichi admitted reluctantly.
Then Sakura promptly frowned as the implication of Neji's admission made itself known to her intelligent mind.
"Wait a minute…You mean that all those times you were just purposely provoking me into responding to you?"
The light glint in his eyes all but answered for him.
"You never noticed."
Sakura started to stutter, her mind racing a mile a minute as she fully processed his words. How long had he been purposely antagonizing her? "Two…years?" The look on her face was one of priceless disbelief. "You started two years ago…" Sakura glanced at him with pure shock on her pretty face. "You had a crush on me for the past two years?!"
Neji started to scowl. What utter nonsense. Crush indeed.
"It was not a crush." The Hyuuga snapped with mild irritation. "It was a simple admiration that had snowballed into denial, and then finally turned to hope that you might be the one to notice this attraction first so that I didn't have to do anything." Sakura started to sputter at his somewhat morose confession, not to mention his not-so-subtle implication that he had fully expected her to pull an 'Uchiha Sasuke" and start shamelessly throwing herself at him. "But obviously it didn't work. You never noticed.
"Then I had this revelation," Neji continued calmly. "And I knew that I had to do something to make you sit up and consider me as something more than just an occupational obligation."
Sakura's eyes softened.
Now that she knew the entire story, everything was suddenly so clear to her.
He liked her. It was just as simple as that.
With this new knowledge in hand, the situation no longer seemed as intimidating as before. Sakura knew what to do now.
"Neji." The pretty kunoichi looked steadily at the handsome male before her, her eyes solemn. "Ask me again."
The Hyuuga looked at her for what seemed like the longest time and then a small, cynical smile graced his proud features—and Sakura learnt at the same time just how much this entire courting business was demeaning to his pride.
He had waited for her for two years, and she had never noticed.
And he was still waiting.
Sudden realization occurred to her.
It was well past time for her to make her decision.
"No." The kunoichi blurted out quickly before Neji could even speak. "Stop. I changed my mind. I don't want you to ask me out anymore."
Then before Neji could get the wrong idea and be led to believe that she was nothing but a cruel tease, the pink-haired kunoichi smiled shyly at the male whom she had been so purposely blind to for the past years.
"Would you like to go on a dinner date with me instead, Neji?" Sakura asked, her bright emerald eyes glowing softly. "I really would like to get to know you better."
Neji had no idea how the tables had turned so completely but he was definitely not complaining. Pale eyes gleaming in a way that conveniently made Sakura blush becomingly, Neji nodded his acquiesce.
Watching quietly, he waited patiently to see what she would do next. To his surprise, she stretched a tentative hand out towards him. Neji took the soft, slender appendage in his larger one, all the while silently marveling over their difference in size. Sakura gently locked her fingers with his and started to lead him to a nearby restaurant that promised a warm comfy atmosphere and excellent food.
"Neji?" Sakura broke the comfortable silence in order to ask a question that had been nagging at her nonstop for the past few days. "How did you get your revelation anyway?"
Neji didn't answer immediately, and just when Sakura thought that he hadn't heard her and was about to repeat her question his hand tightened slightly against hers before loosening again. "I was training." The Hyuuga admitted reluctantly, suddenly feeling more than a little uncomfortable with her question.
Sakura turned her head towards Neji so that she could see his face. Imagine her confusion when she saw the disgruntlement that was painted all over his aquiline features. "And you got your revelation just like that?" She ventured when he didn't appear to want to elaborate.
To her surprise the Hyuuga male immediately pinned her with a warning glower before shaking his head slightly, starting to look somewhat sour once more. The look on his face was so familiar that she was neither offended—nor worried by its appearance. It normally meant that something had displeased him anyhow, and Sakura had learnt long ago that there were a lot of things that could annoy the Hyuuga, herself included. This time she was correct in her assumption; he really hadn't liked what had happened to him.
"No. I fell out of a tree." Neji answered shortly, the tone of his voice clearly warning her to leave the matter alone since it was obviously still a sore topic with him.
Of course Sakura had never obeyed him once in her entire life and she was definitely not planning to start now either. The pink-haired kunoichi burst into laughter at the thought of the normally graceful and nimble Hyuuga stumbling and falling out of a tree, of all things, mid-training. Unsurprisingly, Neji scowled as she nearly cried with tears of mirth.
"I'm glad you find my misfortune so amusing." Neji sounded like he was in a right snit and as Sakura shook her head and gave his hand a light squeeze before turning her head to the side to muffle her laughter, Neji quickly found that he didn't really mind as much that she was laughing at him when she was looking like this, cheeks flushed and eyes bright with laughter, sounds of happiness emitting from her shaking frame. It was almost endearing, if he had to be absolutely honest to himself. It definitely would have been endearing to him if she wasn't laughing at him, but still, the warmth that ignited deep within his chest was unmistakable. Neji liked seeing Sakura like this.
"Oh Neji," The kunoichi sighed gustily when she was fully recovered from her laughing spree. "You are always surprising me. What did you see in your revelation that shocked you so much anyway?"
Pale, silvery eyes softened, and turned utterly warm with gruff affection. Sakura's breath immediately got caught in her throat at that unguarded look in his eyes.
"I saw you."
Questions That I Would Like To Answer Before You Ask:
Don't ask me where I got the idea of Neji falling out of a tree. It just came to me one day. You really, really don't want to know.
Your reviews fuel my passion for writing. So please leave a comment if you like this fic, thank you.