EPILOGUE

Written at the behest of Ariel32. Chuu!


It was an hour before she stopped crying.

It was hard to look him in the face after that. She avoided his silver eyes as he helped her onto the couch behind them, the place where the four of them began, and offered her something to mop up her tears with. Her eyes were puffy and swollen, her nose was red and runny, and face was undoubtedly blotched and messy. She felt… better, though. Much better.

She flicked a look at Neji under wet eyelashes, and found that he was staring fixedly at her. When she looked away quickly, he took her by the chin and turned her face to him. She coloured immediately, but allowed the movement.

His eyes were bright and deep. He stared at her without pause, right into her cloudy brown eyes until she didn't know where he ended and where she began. She wanted to look away, but somehow couldn't. It had never been this hard, looking at him. He was telling her everything with his eyes and she read him and was afraid.

He spoke.

"That morning, when he took me aside," he began, and Tenten bit her bottom lip against any more tears, because 'he' could only be one person, "he told me… he told me that there were some things in life that don't wait on you, and some things in life that cannot be delayed." Here he paused, and got out another kerchief to wipe at her face. Tenten was still as he did so, breathless with waiting for his next words. "He told me that love fell into both those categories."

Despite herself, Tenten smiled widely.

"How… poignant," she said wryly, and her heart ached for her sensei. Who else could give advice like that?

Neji snorted.

"Yes, indeed. He then told me that you were in love with me."

Tenten smiled even wider still; this time, however, she averted her gaze. Not for long, though; he wouldn't let her. He nudged her by the chin, and once again, their eyes collided.

"Did he, now?" she replied, sounding mildly interested.

Neji nodded solemnly.

"He informed me that I was in love with you as well."

"To which you replied…?"

Neji's fingers crept into her hair, and grasped hard. Tenten gasped, and his eyes went soft.

"He didn't let me. He told me I should save my reply for you."

He kissed her. She hadn't been expecting it; at least she didn't think so. She didn't know how to explain the fist that she had buried in his hair as if that was where it always had and always would belong; nor the fluidity with which she leaned forward, pushing them both back onto the couch. Neji moved slowly and she tried to urge him to go faster; she put his hand on her hip beneath her shirt and hoped that he would leave a bruise, and along with the agony in her heart rose a feeling like a flower unfurling, and all Tenten could think was at last.

Right there, they began, again.