by: Faraway Dawn and Kigen

AN: Well...So a good week ago ALL my files were completely lost regarding this story when my external hard drive crashed. OMG I almost freaking screamed my head off for hours (I cried, I actually cried) when I realized it was gone! I think my first thought was, great, now I have to give up on the story, I've lost everything, I could never just make up 10+ chapters that have been lost! Well, you all owe my friend Garret a really really big hug...because he managed to recover all my files :D thus...I update!

Also...I so aced my finals for Fall term! Thus! I UPDATE!

Sorry for the wait guys! Kigen and I love you both for your continued story support!

Chapter 27

Tenten's plans to prepare in advance for Neji to get home were cut short. Nobaru showing up had been funny. At least she had been able to torture him, Karou and one of the others stopping by early morning, right after she had finished cleaning was not what she had in mind. Tenten watched the two fuss in her kitchen, baking all sorts of things, arguing that her fridge simply did not have enough food, and her cupboards lacked the kind of sweets that made up for the horrible weather. "Tsubasa doesn't really have time to uh...cook as much as he used to." She watched Karou making whatever she was making. It reminded her of those almond cakes her mother would make in the fall. She wished Neji was at least home to shoo them out of the house. Eiko was still asking perverse questions about her sex life, even while baking.

"What I don't understand, is how you don't have any marks." Eiko sighed as she kneaded dough. "No hickies, no bruises from restraints and struggling, no scratches, no love bites, nothing. And you are not wearing so much that I shouldn't be able to see anything at all."

"Good locations?" Tenten offered with a light blush. She imagined Neji choking on his tea while listening to such a conversation and then staring at her with a mortified expression. That always made things easier. "I don't know how you guys can make these things without a recipe to follow."

"Practice, practice, and more practice. After a while it becomes second nature, dear." Karou shaped her own dough into little cookies. "Surely there's something even you can make with no direction?"

Tenten went through the list in her mind. Yeah, explosive tags, explosive wire traps, heck I could make my own kunai if I wanted to... "Uh...I can make a sesame and peanut sauce, and I can make something with ginger..." She shrugged and smiled slightly, embarrassment at her lack of cooking skill evident.

Karou clucked her tongue. "Didn't your mother try to teach you something; a family recipe maybe?"

"Yeah once, and she taught Tsubasa when she realized I was hopeless at cooking." Tenten admitted. Neji knew half of her mother's recipes, not only did he know them, but he knew them better than her own mother did.

Eiko sighed. "He cooks, he's gorgeous, and I bet he knows how to handle a whip. Can we clone him if he doesn't have any brothers? Can he perform a good kage-no-bushin?"

"You should have seen him when he was a teenager." Tenten sighed watching the pair of women out bake her by a long shot. She had no idea what sort of mixing technique they were using, much less why an oven had to be set at an exact temperature.

"Oh trust me, I wish I had." Eiko let out a dreamy sigh. "It makes me shiver, imagining what it would have been like. I bet he was the rebellious type."

Eh...sorta. Tenten mused, if you considered his behavior at thirteen, rebellious was a good way to put it. "No no, I mean you should have seen him spar, or when he'd get home from his missions, or at his chuunin exam." Tenten smirked. The second chuunin exams were some of the most amusing times she had with Neji. Both had passed, no longer needing to cheat on their written portions, and of course the elimination rounds, and the tournament portion of the exam. "Now I was in the stands watching, but you should have seen him." Tenten paused only to grab one of the cooling cookies to taste it. "Poetry in motion sounds corny, but that's what it was."

"He is graceful." Karou agreed, adding a decorative twist in the dough for the cookies

"Mmmnn. Which tournament was he in? I remember attending quite a few with my husband, but I know I haven't seen Tsubasa before."

Tenten shrugged. "They were all the chuunin exams to me, I never paid much attention. Fire Country and Lightning country were on very bad terms when he tested. When he did test, I remember none of the cloud ninja or sand ninja got through the elimination rounds, though I heard a few were made chuunin anyway."

"Aw, I can't remember that at all." Eiko sighed. "Dammit. I wished I could have seen it. It would have given me material to work off of for ages!"

"His hair got loose in the fight." The reason they had not seen Neji fight, had a lot to do with the fact that as she had stated, none of the cloud ninja had made it past the elimination round. Very few families and lords of the area remained to watch. She was sure at some point one of her own spacey sighs slipped loose while she nibbled at the cooling cookie she had swiped. "When we went to the training area here, his clothes got muddy, so he trained with his shirt off." Tenten smirked at the memory. He had been pressed right against her, instructing her as he moved her through his taijutsu. She felt warmth spread to her cheeks. "I love when he does his taijutsu."

While Eiko pondered that lovely image, Karou prodded Tenten's shoulder. "Amaya dear, your cookies are smoking."

"What?" Tenten hurried opened the oven, grabbed mitts and pulled the cookies out. "Aw man...I'll never hear the end of this one." She mumbled when right on cue, the smoke detector went off.

While Eiko grabbed an apron and waved it at the smoke detector, Karou cracked a few windows. "And that batch looked like it was going to be edible too." They had learned not to expect too much from Amaya's cooking.

Tenten sighed about an hour later when the women put her to work making one of her few edible meals for lunch. At least, Neji would have something to laugh about when he came home. She had burnt cookies to such an extreme that one of them was smoldering. "That's why Tsubasa says the only dangerous thing about me is my cooking." She sighed turning down the temperature while the noodles cooked. They would be done in exactly ten minutes. She proceeded to moving both ladies out of the way while she took care of the task of chopping peanuts. "You should see him try to cut things though, blind yeah but still good at it, nowhere near as good as I am though." Within a few seconds, a good bit of nuts were chopped into perfect tiny cubes. "My mother let me cut food, never let me cook it."

"You said your family is in the weapon making business, didn't you?" Eiko asked, wiping up a mess on the counter.

Tenten nodded. "My father and his brother owned a shop when my family lived in Suna, after my uncle died, my parents and I moved to Konoha and they set up shop there. There were a few others to contend with, but clans always play favorites."

"So then you learned to play with blades at an early age." Karou nodded, examining her work. "You're as good as any ninja I know dear."

"I wasn't when I was a kid." She smiled holding out her hands. There were a few light, barely visible scars on her hands. "Mom went nuts when I cut myself sometimes while trying to cut chicken faster than my dad."

"Everyone cuts themselves now and again dear. But, a mother never stops being a mother."Karou sighed, tutting over her empty nest.

"A lesson I have yet to learn, I guess." Tenten smiled. When she compared herself and Neji in her mind, a child of his was so likely to be calm and quiet, happy, but calm. A child of hers was likely to be exploring everything and anything, asking why, playing with any sharp object in sight... "I think the academy kids are making Tsubasa nervous about being a father though." She laughed recalling every horror story he came home with.

"You know what they say about enemy ninja and academy children. Always choose the enemy ninja. They at least know what they're doing." Karou chuckled.

"He makes me miss being a teenager though. There was just so much going on when he was a teenager, I'm not one to have regrets normally." She added the noodles to the pan she had stir fried chicken in and added the sesame and peanut sauce. "Oh, but I wish I had told him how I felt sooner." She sprinkled the peanuts on and let it cook a few minutes longer before putting a bit on three plates, pouring tea, and taking it out to the dining room table. She'd have not told Lee, and instead, just told Neji. "I think I spent too long waiting for things to happen, that I could have just made happen if I had been a bit braver."

"Ah, but we all spent out girlhood waiting for our brave shinobi to come and sweep us off our feet." Karou sympathized. "My Kentaro was so awkward when he started dating. It's sweet looking back."

The three had what Tenten could classify as one of the girliest discussions she'd ever had over lunch. It comprised of romantic times, awkward times, the things all women apparently hoped for in bed, and so on. Ino would have had a field day with Eiko. Sakura would have enjoyed talking to Karou.

Hours later, Neji came home with a headache, but otherwise better than the usual day. "I'm home." He called, toeing off his sandals.

"In the living room..." Tenten called. Karou had left earlier in the afternoon, citing that she needed to shop still and get dinner ready. Eiko had left only a short time prior to Neji's arrival. "You have no idea...how glad I am you're home." She groaned pulling a pillow over her head on the couch. "I thought they'd never leave."

"Your turn to host the gossiping house wives?" He noted her exhausted expression, and the smell of unburnt cookies in the air.

"Yeah." She mumbled under the pillow.

"My condolences… Should I made dinner or did the others make it?"

"They made me make lunch." She said lifting the pillow away. "I got to listen to Eiko fawn over you for about five hours."

"Better then reading your porn stories to the cat I'd still imagine." He walked into the kitchen and began pulling out pans and searching through the fridge.

"It's kinda like listening to a cat tell porn stories." She mumbled.

"A level of communication I didn't need to know you and the kitten had."

"We don't have that level of communication. It's just that's how strange listening to her gush over you is." She laughed cheerfully but it did bite at a jealous side of her.

"I can assure you, it's not nearly as strange as hearing sever year olds gush over you; and think they're being stealthy about it."

"I told Eiko she should have seen you as a teenager, she shivered, Neji she actually shivered and had this spacey look on her face, then she said she wished she had seen you. She thinks you were the rebellious type." She smirked. "Oh and she bets you know how to handle a whip. She also wants to clone you."

"... Isn't she married?" He raised an eyebrow.

"Yep. Her daughter is in your class." She continued to smirk into the pillow.

"... Thank you for the disturbing image. I do not want to think of Asuka as my child." That had to be Eiko's daughter. They were practically clones of each other.

"Her niece is in your class too. Aya, I think."

"No wonder everyone's obsessed over us. They're all inbred and related to Eiko." Was there really nothing better for them to do in the middle of winter?

"Eiko told me that Aya has a crush on a boy in your class though, seriously not interested in you at all, likes you, thinks you're a great teacher, goes on and on about how the adults need to be more responsible like you..." She pulled the pillow away and stared at the ceiling. "but she likes a boy in her class." Tenten laughed, it was a relief she added, that at least one girl in his class didn't have it in for her.

"At least one of them knows to stay with those their own age. I'm beginning to wonder what this country's age of consent is."

"It's fifteen, the same as Fire Country. I think like you said, they just have thing for Fire Country accents." Ryuu hopped up on the couch beside her, finally free to stop hiding. "Eiko scared Ryuu though, he's terrified of her, and she keeps going on about how cute he is and tries to play with his ears."

"Even the fur ball isn't that stupid." Neji pitied the animal a bit though; heaven only knew what would happen to him if Eiko got her hands on him.

Tenten lightly rubbed Ryuu under the chin. "He means that in the nicest of ways." She told the cat. "How much are we planning to do tonight?"

"How much were you able to prepare with the company?" He opened the fridge to see what they had. the chicken had been used up, so he pulled out the beef to slice

"None, they just showed up and stayed till just before you left work, despite me saying I had things to do." She grumbled. She could still recall Eiko commenting that for such an active sex life, she had so few marks to show for it. "Eiko thinks I don't have enough...marks for such an active sex life. I told her they were just in good locations."

"Would you like me to hold you down and mark you like some wild beast?" He asked sarcastically, looking to see what else they had. There were still several ripe peppers on their way out. He chose those and an onion. Pepper steak would be a change of pace, especially since she had managed to find beef at a discount.

Tenten smirked at the ceiling. "Go for it if you want, Eiko will be thrilled." She answered while Ryuu purred contently at her attention. He was walking back and forth across her stomach, rubbing against her hand.

"Tell her if she's so concerned about the marks on your body, she can suck you herself." Neji rolled his eyes, telling himself all the while that the women of the village had absolutely no lives.

"Ugh..." Tenten shuddered. "You're a cruel, cruel man. Ugh, it's gonna take a few hours to get that out of my head."

"Consider it payback for those comments about Nobaru." Neji smirked to himself, chopping the onions.

"Here I thought you were above revenge." She shook her head to clear it and stabilized Ryuu who looked shocked by her sudden motion.

"Just because I am above revenge does not mean I will not stoop should the opportunity present itself."

Tenten smiled and breathed in slowly. She smelled beef and pepper. "You're still an ass for doing it. Good thing you're my best friend or I'd have to beat you senseless for that."

"If you beat me senseless, you would have to finish cooking dinner and would only be punishing yourself." He pointed out. He was in a different kind of mood today, resulting in him bantering a bit more than usual, and teasing her quite openly more than usual.

"You're acting...weird." She sat up slightly and looked over her shoulder towards the kitchen. He was talking a lot more than usual, joking even a lot more than usual.

"I'm simply in a good mood Tenten." Sure was being a bit talkative, but he had had an amusing day at school, one that simply couldn't help but prompt a good mood from him.

"Yeah..." That was putting it lightly. He'd tell her eventually, especially with her slightly disturbed tone of voice. It was driving her crazy, and freaking her out a little as well. He could tell her the reason for his mood now, or drag it out a bit longer. "Think one of the kids finally drugged him?" She whispered to the cat. She knew that was impossible, Neji was too smart to be drugged by a kid... "Or maybe one of the women did it, and gave the kid something that looked totally harmless." Ryuu purred and continued to rub against her hands. "Maybe Haru's chakra finally cracked him..." She mumbled.

"Wrong on all of the above Tenten, it's not something nearly as creative as any of those. I wasn't drugged."

"Then what are you so...chipper about?" She glanced over in the direction of the kitchen. "It's kinda weird, even for you."

"Something good and unexpected happened to me is all."

"Something like?" Finding out that at least two of his students were normal? His entire class finally passed a test? His assistant let him take the entire day off?

"We started a new lesson plan today."

What was so great about a new lesson plan that had him in such a good mood? She tilted her head and shrugged at the cat.

It had been amusing to say the least. Henges were always amusing to show the class, especially when the 'hot teacher' spent the lesson as a wrinkled old overweight woman.

"Neji what did you do to your class?" She finally asked. He was too amused, she could hear it in his voice, the simple change in the way he spoke, the way he mentioned a new 'lesson plan' even indicated that he had tortured his students.

"We started to learn about henges today; since 80% of the class passed the papers this week."

"Oh boy..." She sighed and rubbed her head. "What did you do, turn yourself into a wrinkly old bag, with bad clothes and a bad attitude?"

"And enough fat to make Chouji's inflation jutsu look slim." He chuckled, wishing that he could have seen the children's faces, but he opted to not risk activating the byakugan.

Fat, cranky, wrinkly, old lady Neji...it was a bad mental picture no matter how she looked at it. "I pity the kids." She said firmly. "For once, I actually pity them."

"It was amusing to say the least, I didn't get asked to leave you once today. Will you set the table?"

"Yeah." She set the cat down and gathered their plates and cups; she made tea, and carried everything to the table. He left the kitchen with their food and began plating it.

"So, where are we going to start tonight?" She sat down and poured their tea.

"We're going to work on creating the buffer with my chakra so that you can handle larger amounts of Haru's chakra."

"You're really insistent on that huh?" She handed him his tea and started eating.

"It will help the success of the mission, even if it will take some time."

"I guess." She ate tried to think how they would go about making effective tags. If they put just the right amount of chakra into each tag, she could activate them, absorb the chakra, and use it to strengthen hers. There was also the possibility they could make it release in more of a warding manner, so that his chakra would take the brunt of the damage, but it was far more easily detectable. Ryuu pawed at her feet under the table while she thought.

"We should try to make one that will help to merge with your chakra. One that is purely a buffer will be too easily detected. We'll have to experiment different ways to help my chakra enter you."

"Huh?" Tenten snapped out of her daze and almost dropped her chopsticks.

"We'll need to find the best method to allow my chakra to pass into your body." He repeated.

"Oh, yeah of course." She grabbed her tea and took a quick sip. "How exactly do you plan to do that anyway?" She raised a brow at him from over the edge of her tea cup.

"If we place seals over certain points of your body, we can manipulate it so it would send in a steady supply of my chakra at fixed amounts, it will boost your system enough to help counter Haru's."

"Or we could just mess with tags till it works..."

"And it would jeopardize the mission, we'll both be subjected the tags for long periods of time. I've been paying attention to its affect on your system, it poisons you. We can't just hope you build immunity."

"No, no I mean...try making tags containing your chakra that I can just absorb." She tried to explain that she had meant messing with tags of his chakra until they worked, rather than placing seals on her body, which to her sounded mildly perverse.

"It would be the easiest way, and the most easy to place to specific levels of chakra." He pointed out. Yes it would be awkward, but nothing horrible.

"Yeah...but..." She tried to argue, knowing that Neji would do what Neji thought was most effective, despite her arguing.

"Tenten, it has advantages for both customization and ability to perform. Why are you so opposed to it?"

"I...well..." She tried to think of a logical reason to not do it. There were no logical reasons, all of it was personal. It was awkward, it was frustrating, and it made her think too much. "I don't know."

"Then that's what we will use." He answered, finally beginning to eat his dinner.

Tenten sighed in resignation. There was no stopping Neji when you had no rational argument, so she ate silently in defeat while Ryuu continued to play under the table.

The silence did not go unnoticed and after a few minutes Neji looked up at her. "Why is it bothering you so much?"

"It's not bothering me." She said quietly. Ryuu was meowing and tugging on the bottoms of her pants. She waved her hand under the table to get Ryuu to stop.

"You're moping Tenten… dramatically so."

"If I were moping, you'd know. You've never really seen me mope." She finished her food and tea and swatted Ryuu away again. Ryuu proceeded to attack Neji's pants. "It's just awkward..."

"What's awkward about it? It's the same as what I do to cleanse you; just with tags rather than my hands."

She gave him an odd look. Maybe he really didn't get it. No...He definitely didn't get it. "Don't worry about it."

"If you say so." He frowned, wondering what she was keeping from him. She seemed so embarrassed and Tenten was rarely embarrassed when she wasn't acting the part. "Is this because of something Eiko said?"

She shook her head and assured him it was nothing before picking up her clear plate and taking it to the kitchen. "Seriously, it's nothing, don't worry about it."

"All right." Upon finishing his meal he took his plate to the kitchen. He washed, she dried and put away, all the while Ryuu was being obscenely playful, attempting to both pounce on their feet and attack their pants.

"Anything in particular we'll need that's not already down there?"

He shook his head. "We have all the materials we'll need downstairs." It was just a matter of making the seals to contain his chakra.

Tenten nodded, picked up the cat and took him into the living room. She found a few of his toys, insisted he play upstairs and be good, before she set him down on the couch. "Sorry Ryuu, I play with you tomorrow more." She told him before heading into the basement to wait for Neji. She pulled out a few kunai and struck the targets still scattered around the basement.

"Why are you apologizing to the cat?" Neji asked as he started to set up the wards He watched her throw the kunai at the targets as he moved the carpet.

"He's lonely, that's why he was acting the way he was at dinner." Another pair was thrown a bit more forcefully than the last just past Neji to the targets behind him. Neji pointed out as he placed less than the usual amount that he doubted they'd be getting to Haru's chakra that night. She did not answer but threw a set of shuriken with her kunai, Neji remained relatively still trusting to her aim to miss him and only hit her targets, as always. He was always one of the rare few who could stand still and trust her to never strike anything but her target.

"You shouldn't get so attached. What are you going to do when we return to Konoha? I doubt the cat will make it past customs."

"Like we entered this country so legally, why would we leave legally?" Tenten shrugged. "Never mind that, let's just get to work." She suggested while gathering most of their scrolls and blank tags.

Neji affixed the last few wards and sat next to Tenten, grabbing a few brushes. It would mostly be trial and error to affix the right amount of chakra at the right release rate for the job.

Tenten watched him quietly. She wasn't sure how well things would work. She wasn't sure how long it would take. She was sure the part that bothered her most, was being unsure how awkward it would get.

Neji looked over the notes, Haru's chakra tended to focus itself in Tenten's torso, concentrating in her heart chakra. It also tended to linger in her crown and mind's eye chakra, as was normal for any chakra to a genjutsu specialist. "Tenten, take off your shirt please."

Tenten snapped out of her light daze. That was no hallucination; she knew he said what she thought he said. "What?" Her eyes were slightly wide, her expression was somewhat disbelieving.

"Take off your shirt, and your bindings. I need direct access to your heart chakra." Neji had the decency at least to glance away with a faint blush even though he tried to force it down.

Tenten crossed her arms over her chest. "You don't need that much access..." Her cheeks were bright red.

"I need to have contact to your chakra point. If it bothers you, go get one of my button-up shirts." Yes it was a bit embarrassing and made his mind turn in directions that were both inappropriate and made him loose his focus but the longer she resisted the more he was forced to think about it.

"I don't have to take them off fully. I know where the chakra points around the heart are." She fidgeted and took off her shit before her hands started removing her bindings, stopping after a few seconds. "There see?" She pointed to her chest. "Not exposed at all, but you have your access." Her cheeks were still a faint pink. "And don't even tell me you need them off more, I know exactly how much needs to be exposed."

He rolled his eyes. "You act like I'm trying to rob you of your maidenhood." He muttered, placing his fingertips against the chakra points, experimenting with different flows of his chakra into her.

"Hmph, if I'm the only one embarrassed here, why are your cheeks red?" She then turned her attention to his hands, and the flow of his chakra. "You know, I'm starting to think Tsunade-sama might have thought out who to send a bit too thoroughly." Perhaps she had known things might have been more difficult than they had expected, it was common knowledge among the higher ups of Konoha that she and Neji had very compatible chakra.

"We were a practical choice. Our chakra tag system is unusual to say the least. I doubt that they were looking so far ahead as to consider chakra compatibility." They had needed two unmarked ninja who were classified as ANBU in their age group. Out of all the ninja their age, they were the two who could best pass for normal people, and they were among the few unmarked ANBU.

"I think she knew it could be worse than expected. I think them saying that we were the only ones available, and the only practical choice, was just their way of saying this required a certain set of skills." She looked up slightly. "A certain type of bond others just don't have. My chakra responds positively to yours, your chakra responds to mine too though. I can't suppress chakra of other people as well as I can yours."

"It is certainly an advantage." He forced a bit more of his chakra into her, electing a gasp and a shiver. "Too much, or did I catching you off guard?"

"It's fine." She answered quickly. "Just feels a bit...different." So much chakra should have been devastating. So much chakra could do unfathomable damage to people...if he was trying to hurt them.

He lowered the amount of chakra. "Is this better? The chakra level can't be so high as to distract you from the mission."

She nodded. He didn't need to know that there was a very specific feeling so much chakra created, and he didn't need to know that she liked the feeling. "You have to remember, I need to be able to suppress this too."

"Can you suppress this amount?" She was rather good at suppressing his chakra, but there was Haru's to factor in as well, and he wasn't sure how well she'd be able to mask her chakra, his, and utilize Haru's at the same time.

"I think so. Neji, containing someone else's chakra only lasts so long though." Eventually his chakra would fade and leave her system, just like Haru's.

"We can use multiple tags, or set it off to release it in set amounts of time." He mused, thinking over several different possibilities.

"Your chakra will fade eventually though, how long are you expecting this to last, and how effective do you think it will be?" She sighed and closed her eyes. "I can control the chakra when it's inside me, without tags to release it. Your chakra won't remain in my system for an extended period of time though."

"It could with multiple tags. Or..." He weighed the idea in his mind. "…a main tag over your heart chakra, with several smaller tags along your body, releasing chakra at measure intervals."

"Yeah, really discreet..." She rolled her eyes.

"You would be covered with tags yes, but it is the most simple option."

"You could let me help." She took hold of one of the brushes, pushed up one of his sleeves and very quickly moved the brush to form a seal on his arm. "This is...going to feel very weird." She placed a hand on the still wet seal and activated it. It did what he could do to chakra points instantly. Chakra flow through his hand stopped and until she altered the flow of chakra into the seal his chakra remained sealed. "I know what I'm doing you know."

Neji looked at his arm. "Do you think that the skin would be a good substitute?" Skin was organic…It shifted and pulsed and gave off chakra like any part of the body. Paper seals were much better when it came to fine tuning.

"If you know exactly how to make the seal exactly the way you want it to work, it's better. Neji, do you really like the idea of working with paper seals stuck to your body?" She raised and eyebrow, knowing how much he'd complain if his clothes didn't fit just right.

"The last time I painted seals on your body, you laughed and complained that it tickled too much. Not to mention you smeared the seals so I had to repaint them several times."

"That was on my legs and arms, I'm a bit ticklish there." She argued.

"And you do not believe your chest and belly are going to be just as ticklish?"

"I think I can handle it. It's not like you're going to be trying to tickle me, I'd have to question your motives there."

As though to demonstrate, Neji reached forward and brushed his fingers lightly over Tenten's bare stomach, electing giggles. "Even if I don't try to tickle, it still does."

"And just what the hell did you do that for?" She bit back her laughter. She liked his touch there. "Ok seriously now..."

"Proving a point. Drawing seals on the body would be time consuming and frustrating." Frustrating in more ways that he was willing to admit.

"I'm not wearing paper seals, so don't even think about it." She argued.

"And what is the problem with paper seals?" He was certain they were the better choice, regardless of what Tenten said.

She sighed, grabbed a paper seal and slipped her hand under his shirt. She placed the seal on his body and told him to move into certain positions and tell her how comfortably he could work. Her eyes expressed utmost irritation with the idea. "My clothes are tighter than yours Neji. I am not working with paper under my clothes, while trying to work covertly."

"Then you can wear looser clothing." He sighed. Was this really such a big deal to her? "I'm not going to rewrite complex seals multiple times because you don't like the way they feel."

"Then just let me deal with Haru's chakra on my own." She crossed her arms again. "I'm willing to let you help, but if we do use your chakra it needs to be effective and it needs to not be a distraction to me." It was that she said, or she'd just have to deal with Haru's chakra on her own.

"Having my chakra inside of you is less of a distraction than paper seals?" He raised an eyebrow, "You're being unreasonable Tenten."

"You've never seen me be unreasonable." She answered. Why was he making such a big deal of a little extra time and effort? It would make things easier, the seals would be easier for her to work with and control, she'd be much less likely to get caught.

"You're being unreasonable now. Paper seal have the advantage of fine control, which is what we need. Tell me why you need the seals on your skin other than your comfort level." Paper seals were easier for Neji; he could not see any downsides.

"Because I can manipulate them more directly, since I am the one that will be dealing with them when actively working, I think I should be the one to decide. I have to be the one who uses the chakra at set times, I have to be the one to decide when exactly to use it. I am the one who has to control the chakra and suppress it. You should be doing everything to make that easier for me."

He sighed, massaging his temple. Unfortunately her points were valid, but he would not admit that aloud. No, if he did that, she'd be gloating for weeks about being right. "There's no way around this for you is there?" He was not admitting defeat; simply saving himself a headache by listening to Tenten argue efficiently.

"Do you want this to work, or do you want me to just suffer Haru's chakra and hope for the best?" She in turn rubbed her forehead lightly.

"You're the one who said that we should focus on you building a resistance rather than a barrier method." He grabbed a brush and the ink. "Lay on your back Tenten."

She did as she was told, assuming he was willing to work with her rather than against her. She took one deep calming breath and closed her eyes. It was easier to handle being slightly ticklish if one was prepared to focus on something else. She let her thoughts wander very far away from the work their mission was making them do.

The first place would be the heart chakra. Dipping the brush in the ink, he turned, and hesitated. "Tenten, I need you to reveal more of your chest."

She in turn bit her lip and sat up. Tenten turned away from him and unwound the bindings further, further still, until they fell loosely around her waist. She turned back, her cheeks more than a bit red, with her arm crossed over her chest covering herself. "This is really awkward you know." She said quietly, resuming her position lying down.

"You're the one who wanted to have the seals drawn on you." He ran the brush over her skin, watching her shiver from the cold ink, skin twitching under the ministrations.

"It'd be awkward either way. Paper seals have to be placed at exact locations that would require I remove more anyway." She kept her eyes closed and resumed doing her best to breathe deeply and calmly. She refused, adamantly to look at him.

For his credit, he kept his eyes on the seal and off her heaving breasts. Finishing the seal, he placed his hand down gingerly, so as not to disrupt the ink. Closing his eyes, he focused his chakra into the seal before pulling his hand away. "How is that?"

Tenten kept her eyes closed, she felt his chakra bound to the seal, she felt it mingle enough with hers to control, and she felt her own chakra respond to it. "It feels like it usually does." She said quietly, almost too calmly. "It's comfortable, manageable, and calming."

"Can you easily control the flow released?" The seal still needed tweaking to accept Haru's chakra on top of his.

"I think so." She muttered that without moving her hands to form the seals to release the chakra more completely into her system, she wouldn't be able to tell for sure, and she damn well wasn't moving her hands.

"Can you feel anything that needs adjusted?" He placed a hand near the seal, monitoring their mixed chakras.

She shook her head lightly. She could feel the warmth of his hand near her chest, it made her nervous. Oddly despite her nerves it also made her feel safe.

"Do you feel up to trying it with Haru's chakra?" She looked tired, and had an odd dazed expression on her face.

"Can I have my shirt on at least?" She teased.

He rolled his eyes and handed her a shirt. "It's not as if I haven't seen it before." He turned his back to collect of the seals with Haru's chakra

She tugged the shirt on. "Stop saying that, you've seen me practically naked, never fully naked, and you're lying if you say you have." Then it hit her, oh he had never said he'd seen her, but he said it was something he'd seen. She sighed to herself. Just because he'd never been with someone didn't mean he hadn't seen someone in such a way.

"From behind, the day you fell in the mud while training, and had to change your clothes." He had only caught a glance, but he had seen more than he had ever meant to

"That doesn't count." She said lightly, brushing it off, but mildly pleased at least that it was her.

"I have also seen nude pictures of you." He grinned. They were baby pictures that her mother had forced upon him, but nude pictures none the less.

"Like hell." She threw a glance over her shoulder. "The only pictures of me like that were from when I was a baby." Then she quirked a brow. "Cute Neji...remind me to hit you later."

"It was your mother who made me take them home with me." He pointed out, pausing to reinforce the wards again.

Now Tenten was really looking at him funny. "You took them home?"

"She made me take them. I think they're in a drawer in the kitchen or something." He muttered as he worked.

"What?" She stared at him with a horrified expression. In such a location any Hyuuga would have been able to see them... "Oh god...why didn't you just burn them?"

"Why would I have burned them?" He shot her a strange look. "I haven't seen them in years. They've probably been thrown away by someone by now."

She shuddered. "Why keep them is the real question."

He shrugged. "I saw no purpose in throwing them away, and merely put them to the side." There hadn't been a real reason, aside from the fact it seemed a waste to throw away pictures, especially when her mother could snap out of whatever delirium grabbed her and request them back. Granted…that never happened…

"Oh god I hope no one else in your family saw those..." She buried her face in her hands in embarrassment. "I have such a good reputation for being somewhat normal too..."

"Having eccentric parents with embarrassing baby pictures is hardly something abnormal." Tenten's mother was abnormal in her own special way; but nothing to be looked down upon.

She muttered that it was embarrassing before turning to face him, shirt held firmly closed.

"If it makes you feel better, I did throw the ones she gave me of you sleeping in your underwear away." He wondered if Tenten had even been aware of that picture's existence.

Tenten flinched. "How old was I?"

"Somewhere between the ages of 17 and 19." He thought back. She was wearing panties and a tank top with tiny teddy bears on it, and he couldn't recall her wearing those when he spent the night, and strangely the image made him blush almost immediately which prompted a very pleased and excited reaction from Tenten's mother.

That was it. Tenten rubbed her head and apologized for her mother's odd behavior. Such things were simply painfully embarrassing. Oh mom...I love you I really do, but if you weren't my mom, I'd have to kill you.

"At least you won't have to worry about having a mother against you marrying." He pointed out, taking the seal of Haru's chakra and sitting in front of her

"Yeah I do." She looked at the seal. "Considering she's violently opposed to me being with anyone but you, I think we're gonna have some issues in the future."

"I'm sure she'll approve of whoever you marry. It will simply take her time to get used to the idea," He was just a phase of her mother's. A long phase, but a phase none the less…

She smiled slightly. At least he was optimistic that her mother would be able to handle it. "I'm ready to start when you are."

"The binds are in place. We can start." He handed her the tag and watched, prepared to step in if needed.

Her hands moved swiftly through the seals to suppress her chakra and his, then her hands formed the seals to draw on his chakra, then at last she activated the tag. It was an odd sensation. A warm soothing feeling countered by one desperately seeking to burn, she felt little effect from Haru's chakra at all, minus the natural awareness that the warmth she felt was Neji's own chakra warding it. "So?" She asked looking at him.

"Twenty-seven percent chakra detection," He looked at the tag, "but you're managing it much better, and it can be fixed with a bit more alteration I'm sure." He looked at her. "How are you feeling?"

"I feel fine. I can barely feel Haru's chakra, and the only reason I can is because I can feel yours..." She trailed off. How was it that his chakra responded so well to Haru's? It resisted Haru's chakra, it protected hers, and while it made sense that she was controlling a small amount of his chakra and making it do that still it felt... "I feel yours responding." It was strange to think that chakra bound in another could respond so well to the will of another, strange to think it could protect them so effectively. She shook her head lightly. "It just feels warm." It was after all, a very high level technique to bind another's chakra in another person to use as a ward. Usually it was very dangerous, requiring very compatible chakra, or a very skilled medic to perform.

"You're light headed." He noticed her eyes fluttering and her troubled focusing. He took the tag of Haru's chakra and bound it, placing his hand over the seal on Tenten's chest. "I'm going to release it now. Relax and try to stay focused." There was a rushing sensation, felt by both of them as he withdrew his chakra from her.

Then she felt lightheaded. "I was fine till you did that." The excess energy was gone, the pleasant sensation was gone, and on top of all of it she felt a bit more exhausted. "You should have just let your chakra dissipate naturally." She told him when her vision got fuzzy as her body tried to readjust to only her chakra being present.

He grabbed her, steadying the swaying body. "You were on the verge of passing out. He laid her down, quickly getting rid of the wards so they could go back upstairs and to bed. It would be unreasonable to expect more of her that night.

"I was spacing out, not passing out." She felt dizzy now though, oh she sure as hell felt dizzy. "I feel like hell now though."

He stopped a moment, laying a hand on her chest again. He let a little bit of his chakra trickle inside, enough to help her. "Better?" He lifted her and carried her up the stairs.

She nodded in response. "Yeah, like I said let it dissipate normally, you didn't bind a lot in me after all, it'd run its course in a day. I could keep it suppressed and hidden easily enough."

"Forgive me, it looked like you were overwhelmed." He pushed the cat out of the way with his foot, and gently set Tenten down on the mattress.

"It-It's fine." She told him. He didn't have to carry her she wanted to say, and he didn't have to get so worried. She was still slightly embarrassed by the fact that she had to remove so much clothing, and she was still slightly bothered that Neji had seen a picture of her, that her mother took for no good reason, as a teen in her panties! What kind of mother did that anyway? She was still having a hard time looking at him.

"You're always fine." He went to the bathroom, coming back with a warm, wet cloth. "Here, go ahead and clean your chest. I'm going to feed the cat."

Tenten cleaned up while Neji took care of the cat, she grabbed her pajamas and pulled them on before lying back on the bed. She grabbed a pillow and hugged it feeling his chakra start to spread through her body before slighting fading, with the seal removed that bound the slight remnants in place.

Once done doing a quick look over of the house and checking on the cat, Neji returned and changed. "Better?" He asked, placing a hand on her chest to quickly check her system again.

"Yeah I'll be ok." It still made her cheeks a bit pink when he put his hand right at that particular location. Now it was a far cry from being groped or even remotely felt up, but it didn't keep an active young adult mind from wandering.

He nodded, getting into bed. Making sure she was properly tucked in, he pulled the blankets over his own form. "You should be fine with a bit of sleep and rest."

It was tempting, so very tempting, maybe too tempting to comment. "You really had to put your hand on my chest to tell that?" She chuckled quietly and smirked. "Ino's gonna love that, she'll call it the perfect excuse to feel someone up."

Neji snorted. "Trust me Tenten, you would know if I were feeling you up." He turned onto his side to look at her as he so often found himself doing when they would spark up a random discussion in bed.

She quirked a brow and glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. "Would I now?"

"Perhaps… Perhaps not. How does that one song go? The one that Kiba sings about being a ninja? 'I could remove your bra and you wouldn't even know it?'" He quoted vaguely.

"Oh you think you could do that without my noticing?" She also turned on her side and smirked at him. "I doubt it."

"Would you like me to try it?" He raised an eyebrow, giving her both a curious and slightly amused look.

"You'd never get my bindings off without my noticing." She mirrored his strange look. "Why do you want to try? Ino will have a field day, I mean she made me buy bras for that exact purpose. Trust me, she'll be thrilled."

"I was simply going to say, I can not remove your bra if you do not wear one. Even I have my limits." He pointed out. "Ino was planning on it?"

Tenten nodded solemnly. "Lace, she wanted leather, I said no, satin, cotton you name it, she bought it. She said at least one of them was bound to be your kink." She shrugged and laughed quietly. "Why do you think I haven't really worn them? It's just..." She trailed off.

"You're a ninja who binds your chest and once told me that bras were, and I quote 'completely useless, girly, and dumbass.' I have my doubts. You either wear you binds, or nothing. You only drag a bra out when undercover missions require it."

"It's just pointless, more or less." She said lightly. She jerked her head over her shoulder. "Really, what's the point of all that. I get it, house wives wear cute undergarments for their husbands. I get that, but first off, we're not really married. Second, we're not even romantically involved." They were just best friends on a very awkward mission, just friends. "Just...friends."

"You say that like it's a bad thing." Neji rolled onto his back, pushing Ryuu off his pillow. "And what were you expecting from Ino? Two single ninja who have been teammates for years being sent on a mission under the identity of a newlywed couple to uncover government secrets? It's probably a plot from one of her tacky romance novels.

"Naruto wrote the back-story, Sasuke probably had a girls night with Ino and Sakura." She muttered. She hated teasing Sasuke about being girly, but when he was the only one who complained that he was out of hair gel on a mission, it was hard to not crack a joke or two. Even Shino, with a sheer lack of sense of humor, admitted that it was amusing.

"He can't stand their babble anymore than you can." While Sasuke was prissy and had many girly characteristics, he was not quite as bad as Tenten made him out to be. "Until he starts to complain about broken nails and bags under his eyes, I think it's safe to assume he runs in terror from Ino and Sakura's girl's night like any other sane man."

"I never said he was sane, Neji." She recounted at least one time that she had been forced to endure girls night that Sasuke had been there. "Because Ino was buying dinner, no one skips out on Ino buying. Especially when Sakura decides where we go..." She smiled. "If I go to dinner, I'm not obligated to stay for the movies. If you don't show for dinner, you have to deal with the movies." She chuckled and leaned into her pillow. "Why do you think Sasuke always keeps Wednesdays open?" Her hair fell across her face, barely concealing the wicked smirk.

He shook his head. "You do realize that mental image is going to haunt my dreams." He openly grimaced. That was not something he needed to know about for any reason. "He willingly goes to them?" He asked incredulously. It didn't make sense to him, not at all.

"Dinner and clubbing, or a night at Ino's watching girly movies. Dinner and dancing is the lesser of two evils." She said serenely watching Neji's expression. "I always take dinner and dancing. I'm better at dancing than sitting through those movies."

"So it that where you learned about that god awful move?" He asked immediately shifting his attention. Anything to get the image of girly, dancing Sasuke out of his mind. "Something that awful had to come from Ino and Sakura." Why was the girly, dancing Sasuke in his mind wearing a girl's tank top? He shook his head as though it could dislodged the image.

"Borrowed it from Ino." She smiled. "Neji, stop thinking about Sasuke dancing. He doesn't dance, he death glares the walls. Ino dances with whatever moves, Sakura gets really shy. I own the dance floor. End of story." She smirked.

"What makes you think I'm imagining Sasuke dancing?" It was glittering now in his mind, and glared at him when he tried to force it away.

"You look disturbed." She said quietly, snuggling more deeply into her pillow. "It's in your eyes."

"I wasn't aware you were a mind reader." He turned his eyes away from the Sasuke dancer in his mind, finding focus on the Tenten dancer that had popped up. That was much more enjoyable to watch.

"I'm not a mind reader." She answered, she then pointed out she was just better at reading him. "I've got years of experience. Your eyes looked like that time that Lee said he had accidently bleached his clothes, and they were more a bright yellow."

"Don't remind me. It was like being attacked by a giant canary." That kicked the dancing Tenten out of his mind. "I'm going to sleep before you put any other strange images in my mind."

"One last strange one." She smirked. "You remember when I dragged you to that club, well I was dancing pretty...uh...tamely." Her smirk remained on her face when she closed her eyes. "You didn't let us stay long enough for me to really get into it."

"Tamely?" He shook his head. He wasn't going there, he forbade his mind from coming up with any more images. "Never mind. Good night Tenten." he turned away from her, closing his eyes

Tenten pouted slightly and cuddled her pillow. Ryuu curled up in-between hers and Neji's and began purring quietly. "Good night." She said quietly, thinking back on taijutsu with him, and looking forward to a night when he just wanted to spar again.

It felt like weeks had passed when it had only been days, exhaustion had started to wear on everyone, and at last the Raikage's advisors insisted that he, Nobaru, and Haru take a few days off. Taiki didn't like it, he hated it even. Trudging through the newly piled snow of the village did not make him feel anymore rested than sleeping in the shelters. Letting others do his job did not make him feel any better about the situation. On top of his frustrations, Haru was not at home. He knocked on the nearest door a few times.

Nobaru groaned, opening his eyes. Who was knocking on his door at... He looked at the clock…Two in the afternoon? Maybe he had over slept a bit. Dragging himself out of bed, he threw on a pair of pants, careful not to wake Haru. "I'm coming. Lousy neighbors." He muttered, opening the door to his house. "Mm. Got forced time off too Taiki?"

"Something like that." He answered. "It's almost the middle of the day why are you still...no never mind, I don't want to know. Do you know where Haru is?" He sighed. "I've already been to his place and he's not there." He had a bad feeling he knew exactly where Haru was.

"Yep, sleeping in my bed." He grinned, leaning against the doorway. "Feel like joining us?" He held the door open, inviting him in, even though he knew that Taiki would turn down the offer.

"No." Taiki sighed. "I needed to ask him a few things is all. He is the genjutsu specialist, I needed to know if he felt anything strange lately. I know you've been hitting dead ends too."

"Be my guest. Just don't yell at me when he bites you for waking him up." Haru was not a morning person. "I ran my ass off through the village for questioning, and the weirdest thing I felt was Tsubasa's new home security system."

"It's pretty impressive, rather strong too. I can't blame him though, I upped my own." He stepped inside and pulled the door shut behind him. "Most of my team has as well, I'm trying to convince Karou for the safety of her husband, to update their system as well." Kentaro had insisted though that his security was top notch, even though it was only a few tags well hidden outside his home.

"Tell Haru. Karou mothers him so much if he suggests it, Kentaro won't have a choice against the two of them." He flopped onto the couch, stretching out with a yawn. "Try stopping by Tsubasa's again, and see if you can pick anything strange up." It had probably been exhaustion setting in, but he swore he had felt faint traces of Haru's chakra there. Haru said he had never been in the house, and the second time he went back, Amaya had told him horrid tales of heterosexual baby making that made his penis shrivel a little.

"Alright...why aren't you going though?" Taiki asked quietly. Haru was nasty when you woke him up. They had been on a few missions together, and if Haru didn't get his set amount of sleep, there was hell to pay.

"I tried, but the she-harpy told me horror stories that made me want to vomit." He shuddered. He didn't care how wet Tsubasa made her. He liked asses. Those weren't self lubricating!

Taiki snickered. "She made you run."

"She spoke of the horrendous, gaping cavern between her legs. Of course I ran."

"You know," Taiki said between chuckles, "it's a good thing you never became a medic."

"Bah, I can handle things like that in the medical sense. It's no different than any other open wound. It's when she talks about him up...there... that I get squeamish."

"What did she say 'exactly' because I somehow imagine your imagination has gotten the better of you?"

"I'm not repeating what she said. I don't approve of such vulgar things being spoken in my house." He stretched. "But when I was there, it might have been the fatigue, but I swear I felt wisps of Haru's chakra in there."

Taiki rolled his eyes. "Haru's chakra?" He quirked a brow. "Haru's chakra is just about everywhere in this village when he's mad. Even the academy reported feeling it, caused two of the kids to pass out."

"It wasn't angry chakra." Haru's angry chakra had a subtle difference that Nobaru had learned to pick up early on. "It was just, I dunno whispers. It might be nothing, I'll admit to that; but I want someone to check it out again. Even with everyone saying that Tsubasa and the she-harpy are not spies; they are new to the village and should be taken special care of."

"Whatever, I'll look into it. I need to talk with him later anyway. There was an incident last night, and we need him to keep an eye on the kid, make sure they're ok." Taiki sighed, children should never suffer the loss of a parent, especially when the child only had one left. "We have another orphan on our hands, one of the other families has agreed to take care of the kid but." He shook his head lightly. "She's got family still, an aunt and uncle, but her mom was so close to her. I want Tsubasa to make sure she gets home safe for the next few weeks. This isn't the best weather or village to be in as a child." There were at least twenty cases, when he had been a child that children had lost their parents. "You remember that kid in your class?"

One boy had simply stayed out in the storms after his mother died; he got sick, too sick for the medics to save. Others stayed out in the winter, and were found dead the next day from severe cold. Nobaru shrugged. "Kids have instincts too. If they lose their will to live, they'll find a way to join their parents one way or another." Taiki had that depressed look in his eyes like he always did when he thought back on unhappy memories. Reaching up, he grabbed him by the arm and pulled him down to lay on top of him. "Was the kid's mom a researcher, ninja, or civilian?"

"Jounin, she was killed outside of the shelters during shift changes." Taiki answered.

"Wrong place at the wrong time, or another random kill do you think?" The murder rate on the civilians had gone down; most stayed home in such awful weather. Thus, there was an increase in the amount of random ninja being offed.

"Wrong place, wrong time again. She replaced Yumiko, whose husband is deep in the genjutsu research program. Yumiko has security clearance for the labs, she was sent to work for me for a bit because of a broken arm. It was assumed she'd be safer working the shelters."

"Whoever it was then, either didn't have the information that Yumiko had been temporarily transferred, or didn't care and just went for the kill." He sighed, nuzzling Taiki's hair. "Isn't this supposed to be your day off?"

Taiki lightly shoved Nobaru away. "Yes, but no one's told the child yet, she spends the nights at a friend's when her mother is scheduled to work. Her mother was scheduled to work another night, so no one's told her yet. After I got information from Haru about Yumiko's husband and why he's likely a prime target, I was planning to inform Tsubasa about the child." He sighed and looked down. "I'd rather he or I tell the child, than the Raikage's advisors or a random jounin. You know how impersonal it is."

"You gotta stop emoting on these kids Taiki. It'll tear you up. I know you sympathize with the kids, but you can't protect all of them." Nobaru frowned, storing away the information about Yukimo and her husband.

"No child should be informed the way I was. They're children, we're the ones supposed to be looking out for them, ensuring their future. The least we can do is avoid sending people who don't know or don't care much about what happened."

"Still, you can't do it all yourself. You'll regret it one day." He sighed. Getting to his feet, he brought Taiki with him bridal style, and started to carry him to the bedroom.

Taiki shoved himself free. "I don't need you carrying me, just pass on the information to Haru, have him tell me about what he knows later." Taiki turned and headed for the door. "Besides they'll be sending you out looking for him not me, I suppose the information will come in more handy to you."

"Not even in the mood for a snuggle Taiki?" He watched the other leave. "I'll pass on the information. Just keep an eye out at the she-harpy's house. Something doesn't feel right there."

"Just make sure he gets back to me with what he knows, and have him get in touch with his friend's in ANBU, I want them to up the security at Yumiko's home, but I don't have the authority to call that in apparently."

"Got'cha. Good luck with your kids." He yawned and went back to the bedroom. Maybe he could talk Haru into another go before they all cut their time off short.

Haru wasn't asleep when Nobaru returned to the room. "So what was all that about?" He pushed his messy hair out of his face, he'd need to re-dye his bangs in a week or two, the damned roots were starting to show again.

"Another hit. Mistaken identity this time. Killed someone taking Yumiko's place. Her husband's in deep with the genjutsu stuff. Taiki wants you to have your ANBU stop in and watch over Yumiko for a while." he laid on the bed, pushing Haru's hair back. "Your roots are showing."

"Yeah I noticed." Haru muttered. "So another dead. Brings the death toll to what, thirty now?" He rubbed his eyes lightly. They had been bothering him a lot more now that he was getting closer to the final stages of his 'enhancement'.

"Thirty two." Nobaru watched Haru. "Gotta be careful with those. I hear Uchiha have a habit of going blind if they use it too much." He was a bit sketchy on the details, with how tight lipped the Uchiha had been when they were alive.

"They said it's not working as they intended. They need more they said." Haru's amber colored eyes were bloodshot despite having slept all night. "They're hoping to do the second transplant later this month." His left eye had already accepted the sharingan. It was a breakthrough for the genjutsu project. They had succeeded. They had recreated the Sharingan from base DNA and implanted it in a new subject.

Nobaru frowned, pushing back his hair and examining them. "Maybe you should rest your eyes for a bit. I happen to know the perfect activity where you can do that." He grinned, though he was worried. When he had found out that Haru was being modified for Uchiha DNA, he hit up all his sources for information on the sharingan; which was sparse to say the least.

"Well they said at least, my eye color won't fade. They said they modified the sharingan to be less detectable. So my eyes won't wind up becoming dark at least." He fell back against the bed and closed his eyes. "What about you, they didn't say how the ninjutsu program was advancing; just that the genjutsu program was making leaps and bounds."

"Slow and steady, they're making progress on a good schedule. Nothing too notable really." Ninjutsu had been done already, even before the projects started, the village worked hard to come up with stronger, better techniques. "Everyone's responding well to the procedures. They think they've finally figured out the secret to it."

"Yeah, don't mess with medical ninjutsu, unless you specialize in it, don't force people with low chakra from excessive testing to keep working. Big secret." Haru muttered. "They're having serious issues, one of the research teams. They're getting the heat because they can't duplicate the byakugan with the DNA we have."

"We barely have any Hyuuga DNA. What do those higher ups think? If they want better results, they have to get us better samples."

"Yeah and from what a few researchers have found out, the DNA we have won't do em any good. The sample we have is from one of the branch family who died. Apparently their main family curses the branch family, makes it so their byakugan seals away the moment they die. Overall, rendering it useless. Good to know huh? That cranky old man was furious."

"What we need is a living Hyuuga. That way we could take our sample, do some research, kill em and no one'd be any the wiser." He lay on his side, running his hand through Haru's hair. "Oh, and I suggested to Taiki that you stop by Karou's and up her security. Her husband's on the hot list with the others."

"Yeah I can talk to her." Haru nodded. "Her husband's big time on the list of primary targets, poor bastard is in Taijutsu enhancement. You'd think he'd listen to Taiki." After Taiki's last enhancement, one would think it was foolish to mess with him. His accuracy with taijutsu had skyrocketed, and his medical ninjutsu had clearly been dramatically enhanced. He recovered at an accelerated rate with less chakra than previously required, he was far more physically destructive and had even taken on a rare trait. "You see what he did to those training dummies? Splintered them down to nothing. Three light hits, bursts of chakra released in each hit. Man if they ever got the byakugan down, and gave it to him, he'd damn well be a Hyuuga. He fights like them instinctually I swear." Taiki had always been that way, for as long as Haru could remember he would channel chakra into his hands or weapons and use it to very accurately damage nerves or muscles. With the eyes of the Hyuuga, he would be just as lethal as them.

"Mmm… but then it'd ruin his pretty eyes." The byakugan was not the same as the sharingan. The pale color masked the pupil almost completely, and when chakra was strongly focused in those eyes, it helped with the ability to see the chakra points they were hitting, they could see through things, past things and it certain gave the Hyuuga a more intimidating appearance. "Otherwise, he'd be the perfect candidate. The taijutsu department will throw a fit though. Their star going to the hands of the ninjutsu team…"

"I wouldn't mess with him if they ever got it done." Haru rubbed at his eyes again. "Most of them have no issue seeing through genjutsu, because they'll just pinpoint the chakra source. Hyuuga...freaking trouble all of them. I get why the country doesn't like em much, but why mess with something so far out of your league?"

"Maybe they'll go the way of the Uchiha. They have a genius kid as one of the close branch members. Maybe he'll go insane and kill them all." Logic took effect in Nobaru's mind. The curse seal would hamper that if the rumors were true.

"Psh, I don't think this country is lucky enough for that." Haru laughed darkly. "Ah well, I feel bad for Taiki, delivering more bad news."

"He's thinking about making Tsubasa do it. It'd be better with him being her teacher."

"Ugh, poor bastard. I feel bad for him now." Haru pulled a pillow over his head and kept his eyes closed. "I feel bad for the kid; we shoulda had this bastard a long time ago."

Nobaru shrugged. "It's part of the life style." He was pissed as well. Whoever he was, the guy wasn't leaving behind any hints for them to follow, no leads. Nothing.

"We'll get him." Haru said confidently. "Even masters mess up eventually."

"We just need to give it some time." Nobaru agreed lowly. "When do you plan on seeing Karou?"

"I'll see her later today, after I stop at the market. No food in my house, not even instant ramen."

"You haven't set foot in your house in over a week." Nobaru pointed out, finally getting back under the covers.

"Yeah, place is probably starting to look abandoned." Haru muttered. It was fine, he needed a break, and the last time he had been at home he had been unable to shake the feeling that something was going seriously wrong. "Last time I was home I felt like the floors were falling apart, they said it was my genjutsu acting of its own accord. They assure me, it's temporary, and it will pass."

"And they're letting you run around like this? Aren't they even a bit worried you might lose your mind out there?"

"They have a pair of ANBU keeping track of me." He answered.

He grinned. "Even now?" He wondered if half of the ANBU out there were voyeurs.

"Nah, they're just supposed to monitor my chakra, look for irregularities and subdue me if I start losing it." He lifted the pillow away and glanced out the window. It had to be mid afternoon at least.

"It's around three. If you plan on getting anything done, you should get going. However, if you wanna leave things until tommorrow..." Nobaru wiggled his eyebrows suggestively albeit a bit comically.

"Nah, you know Karou, you'd hate it if anything happened to her. She's like a sister. A better security system is for her safety as much as her husband's." Karou was like everyone's family. She was especially close to Taiki, Nobaru, and himself. She had always insisted the three need a little extra care, and since she only treated Nobaru like a brother, he never flinched even when she hugged him or brought him food.

"Mm-hmm." Karou was the only woman Nobaru could admit he enjoyed the company of after Haru's sister had passed. "Go on. You know where to find me when you can't resist anymore." He gave him a quick look over though, making sure his chakra systems were stable. He was not be a medic but he made sure to know the basics of everything.

"Yeah, yeah." Haru grabbed his clothes and pulled them on before tossing a bored glance at the mirror in the room. "God...I really gotta dye the damn bangs. You didn't say they were that bad." He waved over his shoulder before leaving, off to inform a family that their home security was lax, and chat up a housewife who would take his side over her husband's just because she'd known him longer.

Neji's class was bombarding him with questions about the current focus of their studies. "So what exactly do you do if you just can't do certain types of jutsu?" One of the girls asked who was still desperately trying to get basic substitution down. One of the boys was having even less luck, though he did manage to turn himself into a little old man.

"You keep trying different approaches and theories to see if one can work where the others have failed. If not, then you find a way to work around it. Part of being a ninja is adapting."

"Or you could give up." One of the boys answered, cool, confident arrogance radiating from him. He and his typical partner were still top of the class, and still driving their fellow classmates mad with envy.

He caused more fights in the class than anyone, purely by attitude, Neji's assistant noted as one of the girls hurried to answer. "Oh yeah, shut it Ren or I'll send you home with a bloody nose!"

"Here we go again." Neji muttered.

"If you could hit him." Ren's partner muttered at his side, only stirring up matters further, while continuing to practice her nearly flawless substitutions.

Neji sighed, annoyed with the situation on whole. The two needed to be taken down a notch. "Do you two feel that these lessons are below you?" He asked, frowning. Extra homework was no punishment for these two, so he would have to find other means.

"We're sick of being harassed by them on the way home because we actually pass our tests and bother to pay attention." Aya answered crossing her arms. "It's a bit annoying being stalked place to place by them. They never leave us alone."

One of the other girls said that she was just mad that she didn't get alone time with her boyfriend, which made Ren narrow his eyes. The class was getting volatile. Neji's assistant sighed. "You know, we could have the pair of them put in the class above them, but I'm sure it wouldn't stop the harassment by their peers. It's true; certain students have taken to stalking them all over the place."

"They're just mad we catch them trying to cheat off our work." Ren added. He refused adamantly, to be punished for the stupidity of his classmates.

Perhaps if they did not gloat so much about their talents, this wouldn't be happening. If only there was a way... He smirked. The class knew that smirk. "All right then, Ren and Aya, come to the front of the room. Everyone else, I want to divide into two groups; boys and girls." This wasn't the best team building experience; but it would get the competitive spirit fired up.

The kids, very reluctantly did as they were told, as most were still divided on who was better for their sensei or his wife. Students occasionally shot the person next to them dirty glances while they divided up until their assistant instructor shot them all a warning look.

"All right. We're going to do a little project. Starting now and until I decide otherwise, you will be working in teams; one against the other. Aya will head the girls, and Ren will lead the boys. Everything; homework, tests, practice will relay on the team's average. That means, if for example; the average grade for the boy's test is failing, all the boys will fail, including you Ren; even if you have a perfect score."

Most of the class snickered at the information while Ren and Aya looked mortified. Aya was the first to voice her concerns. "The class will drag us down on purpose, even if we work our hardest to help them pass, thus passing us, they'll sabotage it. Why should we be punished because they just don't like that we're not obsessed with marrying you or your wife?"

Ren nodded silently.

"Punish attempts at sabotage. We're not fool enough to not notice when they're doing that." Neji's assistant answered. "If the group attempts to purposely fail, to cause Aya or Ren trouble, I'll see to it that all of you spend an additional two years before you're even qualified to test as Genin, Aya and Ren excluded from that punishment, since you all seem to have it out for your classmates."

The whispers stopped, and multiple students stared at their instructor and assistant instructor.

"You can't hold us back for sabotage." One of the boys countered. "I'm not stupid enough to fall for that, just because half the class is. A good ninja should be able to work around sabotage." And then the yelling started. It started with people calling each other stupid while a few kids death glared their peers. Then it escalated to physical threats.

"I miss the days when they all just listened to their teachers and their threats." Neji's assistant muttered.

"I wasn't this disruptive when I was there age. How about your class? I think we're cursed with some strange anomaly." Neji rubbed his temples, feeling a headache starting.

"Yeah mine was pretty well behaved." A few minutes later there was a light knock on the door followed by Taiki poking his head in and swiftly catching the kunai that almost hit him.

"Sorry to uh...interrupt, Tsubasa, I need to speak with you if your class won't murder each other from me pulling you away for a few minutes."

"I think they can handle themselves for a few minutes." His tone made it clear that any bloodshed would have severe consequences. Stepping outside the classroom, Neji closed the door. "What brings you here Taiki?"

"There was a murder again last night, I know normally we wouldn't inform you but it concerns one of the students." He said quietly. "Her mother was scheduled for a three day work shift; she usually stays with her aunt or a friend when her mother is working. I didn't want a random jounin showing up at her door in two days to tell her."

Neji nodded, remembering how it happened when he was a child. His classmate would be pulled from the class, and sent home crying if there was no one else to break the news. "Whose mother died?"

"Aya Sakamoto." Taiki sighed.

Neji cursed under his breath, running a hand through his hair. "Damn... I'll break the news to her. She's staying with her aunt Eiko, correct? I'll take her home."

Taiki nodded. "If you'd rather I tell her, I could. Unfortunately I'm getting used to breaking news like this to people. First time in a long time I've had to tell a child though."

"I'll be there with you." Neji had no experience with breaking bad news or comforting a child. He was thankful for the offer, and took it.

"Call her out here if you could, I'd rather her not be told that in front of her classmates." Taiki knew exactly what the kids would do though. When students were called out for private discussions the entire class would cluster next to the door to listen. One way or another they would find out.

"I have a better idea." Gesturing for Taiki to enter the room with him. "Since you all seem to have so much pent up energy, everyone to the gymnasium. I want fifty laps from everyone. Anyone who talks back has to do an extra five laps. Understood?"

Most of the kids suppressed their annoyance and did as they were told. Others rolled their eyes or glared silently at each other, but all confirmed that they understood and began to file out of the room.

"Aya, stay behind. There's something I need to discuss with you... Ren keep going. This doesn't concern you." Neji said when he saw Ren trying to stay behind and stay with Aya.

"Close friends I take it?" Taiki asked quietly watching the boy very reluctantly leave the room.

"One day they'll probably be married and producing the village's next super genius babies." He muttered back as Aya came to stand before them.

Taiki bit the inside of his lip when the girl's eyes shifted nervously between her teacher and himself. "Aya," he said quietly, kneeling down to get a better look at the girl. "I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but your mother died last night." He watched the girl's eyes widen and her quickly shake her head. He held out a headband to the girl. "I think she would have wanted you to have this." He stood slowly and watched the child's eyes fill with tears, though she remained resolutely silent. Children affected everyone, even the best; no one wanted to be the bearer of bad news to a child.

Neji frowned. It wasn't happy work for anyone involved. One of the cloud ninja down was one less for him and Tenten to worry about, but it didn't make him feel better, not when faced with a child. "Come on Aya, I'll take you to your aunt's house. You don't need to worry about schoolwork for a while." He held out his hand, offering what little comfort he could.

"I'll take her, I know Eiko well." She was on the way to where Taiki had to go next anyway. The worst of all places to go on a supposed 'day off' had to be the morgue. They were going to be investigating the death thoroughly, and heightening security all around. At least, he thought, the girl's mother had died what looked like an almost oblivious death. There were no signs of a struggle; the killing blow was clean and accurate. She didn't suffer, according to the report. "I doubt your class will be long running their laps."

"Thank you Taiki." He didn't know how to handle the situation at all. He knew the pain and anger the young girl was probably feeling, but he had no idea how to comfort her. No one had comforted him when he was a child after all. "If you need anything Aya, let me know. I'll do the best I can to help you."

The girl nodded while her things were gathered. She seemed more stunned into silence and was doing her best to not cry aloud, though she did have tears in her eyes. Taiki escorted her out and watched the girl silently walk ahead of him, the child's response frighteningly similar to his own as a child.

Neji sighed and sat in his chair, feeling more than a bit useless. This wasn't his village, and getting attached to the children was not a good thing to do. However, despite reason and awareness of the situation he couldn't help but feel bad. It was sad for a child to lose a loved one, no matter what nation they were allied with. The kids didn't stay gone long, few by few they returned to the room, each noting in due course that Aya was not among them. A few noted, that their teacher seemed somewhat down, not too noticeably though, because within a few minutes the whispers of speculation about where Aya was died down and the class was put back to work for the few remaining hours of the day.

After work, Neji returned as always, to the house he shared with Tenten, trying to push the events out of his mind. "I'm home." He called into the house, catching the kitten before it darted out into the snow.

Tenten was on the couch, finishing folding the last of the laundry. "Yeah I see that." She noticed the small feline bolted for the door the moment it opened. She set the last of the folded clothes in a perfectly neat stack and looked toward the door. Neji didn't sound himself. "You ok?" She asked when he set the cat down on the floor.

"Aya's mother died. I helped Taiki deliver the news." He explained, dusting the snow off his shoulders.

She stared at him for a few minutes, stunned by the news. A child had lost one of their parents. It wasn't right to care or feel bad, she knew it. Their work would leave many families short a parent, or both. Feeling sad for a child, feeling bad for the country they were working against was no way to be. Still her eyes betrayed how she really felt. "The poor kid...she's Eiko's niece. She doesn't have anyone else except her aunt, uncle, and cousins does she?"

He shook his head. "No father or siblings. At least she has family to take care of her." Many didn't have even that much.

"Do you think she'll be ok?" She asked, despite telling herself that she shouldn't care either way. Caring too much about a village one was out to sabotage was not in her best interest.

"We shouldn't show too much sympathy Tenten. It's part of being a ninja, leaving loved ones behind. We'll probably leave more without family before we leave this village."

"I know." She said quietly, though she agreed, they shouldn't feel or show much sympathy, she could tell he was affected by it too. Perhaps it hit a bit too close to home. A child with their closest family taken from them, left in the care of only that parent's sibling and their cousins... "It's bothering you though."

He sighed. "The death of someone close to a child is never pleasant, especially when you have to help deliver the news. I'm trying to distance myself from it." The last thing they needed was for Aya to look to him for support. It would hurt her badly when he left.

"She has close friends right?" Ryuu resumed his spot on the couch beside her after being held back from his attempt to pounce the laundry.

"Ren. She's one of the pair I told you about." He was sure Ren would help Aya through the worst of it.

"The ones with the chakra like ours." She said softly. "I see." Again she held Ryuu back from his attempts on the stack of laundry. "Eiko is nice, a bit perverse, but she's nice, she'll take good care of her, I remember she mentioned that Aya stays with her when her mother worked."

"Aya will be staying with her a long time." He picked up the kitten and carried it to the kitchen to feed. "What do you want for dinner?" He wasn't going to keep thinking about it.

"Doesn't matter, anything's fine." She told him, lost in her own thoughts. It was a sad situation, worse to think that they personally would be the cause of more cases just like it. It was something she never liked about long missions. Assassinations were quick, fast, you never got the time to get to know who your victims might be, and it was work and nothing more. Their mission broke all the rules of standardized assassination.

No contact, no connections, no feelings, no problem.

"Don't think about it Tenten." Neji called from the kitchen, beginning the meal. "Lingering on it will only make you feel worse than you do." This isn't her usual work; it's easier for her to become attached. She's accustomed to going in, doing the job and leaving. He focused on preparing the meal while reminding himself over and over that this was not her normal line of work.

"I know." She answered leaning back in her seat. It was hard to not think about it though, and surely he wasn't ignoring it even with his best efforts, especially since he told her not to think about it.

"Did anything interesting happen to you today?" He asked, trying to change the subject and distract them both.

"Nothing really, just word that there's a storm moving in." They'd be expecting extremely heavy snow and whiteouts again, as assured by Taiki, very typical winter weather.

"Floods in the fall, blizzards in the winter, spring will probably bring tornadoes at this rate." He muttered, shaking his head.

"It'd be interesting huh?" She said quietly, but she assured him that no, all they had to look forward to in spring was heavy rainstorms, melting snow, and high winds. "Apparently at least once a week though it's sunny."

"I think I'm actually going to miss Konoha's suffocating heat waves." Neji dropped a small piece of meat into the cats bowl, barely a scrap.

"You can look outside right now, and say you don't miss them yet?" She asked before getting to her feet and going about making tea and setting the table.

"The heat and sun, yes, I miss those. Those heat waves that hit us mid July? I've yet to miss those." Neji hated extreme temperatures in general, especially the cold.

"And the negative temperatures here don't bother you half as much." She joked while preparing their tea.

"Both bother me Tenten. I am simply choosing the lesser of two evils; like choosing between going shopping with Ino and Sakura. Both are hell incarnate on earth; Ino is just slightly worse than Sakura because she doesn't pretend she's not a depraved pervert."

"Yeah and between the two, Sakura's a bit worse when she finally ditches the innocent act." Tenten muttered. She had some good news, on a day that seemed to be riddled with bad news though. "I found a solution to the 'time and effort' argument of placing seals directly onto my skin you know." She smirked. A day fully alone at home did wonders for creativity.

"I have the extreme pleasure of never knowing that part of her." Neji pointed out, checking to see if the rice was done. "And what was the solution you found?" He raised an eyebrow. They had been trying to figure it out through trial and error for several days, and only seemed to learn what didn't work.

"It didn't cross my mind till this morning while I was cleaning." Ryuu had gotten into the dustpan and transferred little paw prints all over the kitchen floor that she'd had to clean up a second time before wiping his paws off. "I used tags like this once on an assassination, it's a tag that bears the seal on it, which as you said, makes it easier to fine tune, you place it against the target, release a set amount of chakra, and it transfers onto the skin, like a brand." A lot less painful she stated though, it felt more like a slight burst of static.

She added that it was usually used for paralyzing targets so they couldn't fight back.

"That could work." He paused in stirring the food to ponder this. It was true that it would work with the transfer; winning the argument over the paper seal's accuracy. "All we would need to do is find the most proper chakra points and the amount of chakra placed within them." It would cut the work in half if the transfer process went smoothly.

"Which we would have to do anyway, regardless of what method we used." She nodded. It allowed her maximum comfort and control of the chakra, it allowed the accuracy of a paper seal, and it allowed them to alter it as needed without the risk of injury or weakness.

"We'll try it. I see no reason why it wouldn't work." Neji took the skillet off the stove and started to fix the plates. "Will you set the table Tenten?"

"Already done. Tea's made too." She smiled.

"Good." He lifted the two plates of food, setting it on the dining room table, pushing the cat out of the way. "Your food is in the kitchen." He used the chakra command, but the kitten still pawed at his pants. "Tenten, your little monster isn't listening to me."

"Because he wants you to pet him." She picked up the cat and scratched behind his ears. Ryuu purred pleasantly at the attention. "He's not that little anymore either."

"He's smaller than me. It's still little." Taking a seat at the table, he sighed as the kitten pawed at his leg again. "Oh for heaven's sake." He reached down and ran a hand down Ryuu's back. "I pet you, now go away."

It always prompted a smirk from her when the cat responded to Neji only after he got what he wanted. Having been pet, he curled up near the couch on the floor and pawed lightly at a little felt mouse. "I think the cat misses you more than I do during the day." She laughed.

"I don't see why it would miss me. I spend most of my time ignoring it when I am home." He ate his meal, kicking the toy mouse away when it was dropped at his feet.

"Mhm, you just don't ignore him very well." She ate her meal with a slight smile. The cat slept on Neji's pillow while he was gone in the day, and when he got home he focused all his energy on trying to get Neji to play with him. "He likes you, that's all." She sipped her tea and threw a glance outside. "And here comes the storm."

Neji didn't need to look up to hear the windows rattling. "This is supposed to be a bad one; bad enough that they might cancel school." A snow day was practically unheard of in Lightning Country; the ninja were expected to adapt to the extreme weather. "There will probably be another hit tonight. Tetsumi said that the guard was being raised and they put an extra twenty ANBU on duty."

"Good thing I went to the market earlier. Karou told me to double up on things, she said when winter storms get bad, you get snowed in for days sometimes. Most ninja help clear the walkways and keep things moving, but with the situation as it is right now, I imagine it's easier to have people fend for themselves while they use the bad weather to focus on the major threat."

He nodded. "We'll have to be more cautious right now. They may be sending random nin out during the day to check on civilians, or call me out to help." It was near being considered wartime; even if the war was internal and contained. Even though he was a teacher, he was aware that he could be called out to help with search and rescue or something similar.

"So you really think it will be as bad as everyone says?" She returned her gaze to the windows that already were coated in frost. She couldn't see much outside, except that it was starting to snow and the wind was picking up. The clouds were dark, almost as dark as they had been in the fall during the storms or in the spring when they first arrived.

"They're expecting a large quantity of snow in less than two hours. Everyone's hunkered down with enough food and toilet paper to foresee the apocalypse." Neji shrugged. "Mostly likely the worst thing that could happen to older and younger people is that a lot of people might lose electricity. The biggest worry though, is that some of the older houses might collapse under the weight of the snow in the western district; or that the hospitals generator might blow."

"All that over so little?" She glanced outside. It seemed like a little, but the snow was wet and heavy, on top of that the winds were whipping it all over the place, and as if to spite them all, the snow was already waist high in most areas, nearly chest high in some. "Eh...yeah I guess it is a bad thing more snow on top of what we already have." They were also expecting an ice storm. Dropping a foot or two of snow, with heavy wet slush that would coat everything in ice was a serious problem.

"Add in an ice storm and it makes everything all the worse. We apparently choose the worst weather they've had in years to move in during. One of the other teachers asked me if we planned on staying after the ice melted and we were free to escape."

Tenten laughed lightly into her tea cup. "Yeah tempting to run back to Konoha to rediscover what sunlight feels like."

"I told him about our summers and dry spells. He plans on taking a vacation next year when the first storm hits."

"Is he single?" She asked with a laugh. "Because if so, he's probably just hoping to see Konoha girls in their swimsuits."

"Has a girlfriend, but he did express the interest in seeing her in a swimsuit."

"Guess that's kind of a rarity here huh?" She nodded out the frosted windows. She finished her dinner and noted that it at least left her feeling quite warm.

"Not really. Most of the housewives are just lonely with their husbands at work all day."

"Most of them are a bit more than lonely." Most of their husbands worked day and night, and only were seen once every few days. The women were a bad combination of deprived and lonely.

He shrugged. "Deprived, lonely, it's same thing with different levels of physical interaction." There was more to romance then just sex; as much as many tried to argue with him. It was not the most important thing

"I can understand why they miss the interaction. I mean god, it doesn't take that long to clean a house every day." She shrugged. It took so little time in fact, that most of her day she sat around boredly waiting for him to get home.

"They don't just sit around the house all day cleaning. Some of them have to work. Aren't you dragged out on enough of their excursions to have an idea of what they do?" Some had children at least, and that was a full time job in itself.

"Only a few have young children too young for school." She said quietly. "Some of them are nice, some of them are just brats." She smirked slightly. "They all agree you're a saint to put up with them."

He didn't need to be told that a second time. He had quickly found a deep new respect for Iruka and the other teachers who had to deal with him and his classmates. Though, his students were much worse than his classmates were.

"I bet they're a lot worse than you make them out to be." She finished her tea and leaned back in her seat. Ryuu was now pawing at her leg and it didn't bother her as much as it bothered Neji.

"I believe the teachers that came before me were quite lax in their discipline. I'm stuck with re-teaching them how to act on top of being ninja."

"How cute." She smirked, reaching down to pet the cat. "How often do you get fights in class?" She remembered her class. Her class had been full of people with volatile tempers and aggression. The girls were just brats, and the boys were just competitive as hell.

"How often a day? Once or twice on a good day. Half a dozen if I'm lax or they decide they don't care how much homework they have." They were all demonic little brats, ever last one of them.

"We were never that bad. I mean we got into a few class spats, but most of them ended well." Well meaning, no one was hospitalized. When the boys went at it, they really went at it. They'd line up to pick a fight with Neji. Lee would always be ready and willing to take on the losers, despite the fact that they mocked his inability to use ninjutsu. "Lee used to send a few of them home with black eyes for teasing him."

"I remember. He excelled at taijutsu to the point where it didn't matter if he could use ninjutsu or not." Of course in those days, their classmates hadn't been the most skilled at any of the jutsu. "I don't know what they were trying to prove by defeating me though. It was as though they thought if they defeated me, they were proving themselves more skilled that me, even if I had defeated a dozen times already."

"The funny part was that, Lee wasn't all that good at taijutsu either in school." She smiled. Lee had become remarkable at taijutsu after he had been assigned to their team. "He was just so much better than them at it that it seemed like you and him were just the absolute best at it."

"He was still the superior one in the class. It didn't matter against his classmates." He finished his meal, placing his chopsticks down. "Are you finished?" He gestured to take the plate from Tenten; ignoring the cat that was this time, clearly begging for scraps.

She nodded in response and looked outside again, she was sure for a minute or two someone had passed by as quickly as possible in the high winds and rapidly falling snow. She shrugged it off as imagination, they weren't close enough to set off any of her tags and their chakra was barely detectable. Besides, who in their right mind would be out in that weather anyway?

Neji on the other hand frowned. "Did you just see something as well?" He stood up. It would have to be a highly skilled ninja to get past his wards without setting them off; one that could easily disguise his chakra to nothing.

Her eyes shifted from the window to him. "You saw it too? It wasn't all that big, I thought it was just my imagination."

Neji was already slipping on his shoes. "I'm going to go check it out. Stay here and act worried in case someone's following him." It could have been the spy that had been killing people over the last few weeks. There was good chance if it was, he would not be alone; and that he would attack without hesitation.

"You're kidding right?" She followed him to the door. If it really was the spy that had killed so many people, Neji would be forced to fight. Hell what if the guy wasn't alone?

"I'm not going to make contact unless I need to Tenten. I want to at least have an idea of what we're up against if we end up having to face him." He pulled on his jacket. "I won't be long, trust me."

She nodded. Oh she didn't like one bit that he was going out and she was staying in, but she was a civilian. No civilian would rush out into danger.

Neji cursed under his breath as he went into the wet, thick, falling snow. Of course it couldn't be a pleasant, warm day that they caught a glance of the mystery nin. He still couldn't sense the chakra, and ventured out in the direction he saw the blur dart in. Luckily he didn't have to go far until he spotted a small figure standing in the snow; far too young to be an enemy ninja assassin. "What are you doing out in this storm by yourself?" He recognized the jacket; it was one of the kids from his class.

The kid turned and sighed. "Going to check on Aya." Came the dull, mildly irritated response. It was Ren, very obviously. "She left early, my family isn't packed with active ninja, but I know well enough what it means." The boy crossed his arms and dusted the snow off his clothes. "So unless you're trying to turn me into a snow statue, I should keep going before this gets worse."

He sighed. He had expected it actually; but had hoped the boy would just be skipping school the next day rather than risk his life in this blizzard. "I'll take you to Eiko's house. I'm not letting you wander around this blizzard by yourself." His words were firm and left no room for argument. "Please tell me that at least your parents know where you are."

"Of course they know. They just don't like it." He muttered. What would they do though? "They're civilians, it's not like they can really stop me. So they usually just let me do what I want as long as it's not going to get me killed. I'd have moved faster, but I was trying to avoid setting off all your home security." He mumbled. "Yeah, Aya and I know all about it."

He smirked. "Not bad for someone of your level." If he had gotten closer, the more fine tuned traps would have been set off; even if he had masked his albeit weak chakra well. "Would you like to know what brought me after you?" He wouldn't admit that he had thought he was an enemy nin of course. The kid's ego didn't need to be swollen anymore then it was.

"I don't suppress my chakra well enough, you had a feeling I'd probably try something like this tonight, or you or your wife saw me out your window would be my guesses." He said quietly. "I doubt you thought I was the village spy after all." But he did raise a brow curiously.

"My wife spotted you. She said that the blur was small, so I wanted to make sure that no kids were out playing in the snow." He looked down at Ren, walking with him. "If you had been about 13 inches closer, you would have set off the motion detection tags." they were set up to register anything bigger than a house cat wandering through.

"I know, Aya likes those ones." He smirked. "She almost set off one of your tags that bind chakra though when she was pointing it out." The pair had come to an agreement that their sensei had some of the best defenses around his house out of anyone in the village. "Most of the jounin don't have half as much security. It's a good idea though, especially with someone killing people in the village. Some people aren't worried, people with nothing really in danger of being lost." He said quietly. "My family isn't concerned, my dad doesn't even really care about what happened. It's hard to stay at home when someone says your best friend's mother had it coming, that it was her fault because she chose to be a ninja."

"And he allowed you to become a ninja?" There were some people like though, though rare in a ninja village, who thought that ninja were stupid and deserved to die for choosing such a dangerous profession. He felt sympathetic towards Ren, even as he tried to distance himself.

The boy shrugged. "He likes the security of being in a large village, it's easier to survive. It's not like me to rely on others to take care of me and protect me." He said while trudging through particularly thick snow and greatly looking forward to the day they'd learn to walk across snow with ease. "If we were all like that, the village wouldn't be a safe place for anyone." He pointed a few houses ahead of them. "I can make it from here, it's right there."

"I'll stand here and monitor you if you don't want Aya to know I walked you here. There is a murderer on the loose, and active nin aren't the only ones being killed." He leaned against a half buried post, waiting for Ren to decide. Ren nodded in understanding, and continued on alone. He was greeted by an overly emotional Eiko who hugged him and pulled him into the house a few seconds later.

Once the door was securely closed and Ren was safely inside, Neji turned and headed home; sure Tenten was worrying herself over him. He imaged she would be relieved once she discovered it was just Ren going over to check up on Aya. He had originally doubted either would be in class tomorrow, whether there was school or not. He hadn't expected that though.

Tenten was pacing the living room. Pacing was not her thing, but the cat followed her every step pacing right behind her. He said he wasn't going to be long, he said he was just going to check, she could barely detect any chakra, so if it really was a ninja, they were good. He had been gone for about fifteen minutes, and she didn't like it one bit. Ryuu meowed and continued to follow her back and forth, one way then the next, until finally he sat down to the side and just watched her walk back and forth.

"I'm back." Neji called, stepping through the door and brushing the snow off with an audible curse this time. He had spent fifteen minutes walking and standing in the wet mess and was already soaked.

"What the hell took you so long?" She went to the door and blinked. He was soaked. "You better change out of all that fast, you'll get sick again...but anyway, what took you so damn long? You said you were just going to check on it."

"I did check. It turned out to be Ren. He was on his way to Eiko's to check on Aya. I insisted on walking him there. I didn't trust him in this storm by himself." He had already stripped out of his jacket, shirt, and was unbuttoning his pants as he walked to the bathroom.

"How...nice of you." She glanced at the cat. It wasn't like Neji to walk someone through weather they were foolish enough to be out in.

"I'm not going to let an eight year old kill himself because I didn't spend ten minutes walking him. Don't look so confused Tenten."

"As long as he kept moving it wouldn't kill him...I'll make some more tea so you can warm up." She chuckled to herself and headed to the kitchen. It was strange to see Neji care enough about anyone, especially one crazy enough to be out in weather like their current weather. She was relieved though, because at least it was just a kid. A clever kid, to be avoiding so many of their defenses, she mused. "Yeah I think they'll be closing your school tomorrow. Ninja brats or not." She watched the clouds approaching the already snowy weather carefully. They were darker, more foreboding, and the wind was picking up. "Good thing you did walk the kid, and you got back just in time."

"Letting the kid die would have ended up in with more paperwork then I'm willing to deal with Tenten." He pulled off his clothing and turned on the hot water. A quick shower would warm him up well enough.

"And you like your students more than you let on." She said passing the bathroom without a glance to grab towels. He'd be pissed when he realized there weren't any. On her way back she tossed a pair into the bathroom and went back to the kitchen.

"I don't hate any of them enough to wish them death Tenten. That is not affection, but common courtesy." He replied while washing his hair, reasoning again and again that he still didn't care about the kids. He just didn't want them dead.

She shook her head lightly while she finished making the tea. He liked a lot of his students a lot more than he let on. On the few occasions he was pleased with his class's behavior there were always a few students' names that popped up, usually for impressive test answers or impressive combat resourcefulness. He liked when they were creative and worked out solutions to complicated problems, he only wished they'd be more willing to help each other or accept help.

Finishing his shower, he tugged a towel on and started to blow dry his hair. "Out demon spawn." He spat when the kitten came in and hissed at the blow-dryer; like he was protecting Neji from it. "It's just the hair dryer. It's not going to hurt you."

Tenten however bit back her laughs back while the cat continued to hiss and hop around in the hall the whole time Neji dried his hair. She couldn't willingly call the cat to the kitchen, it was too funny to hear Neji try to tell the cat it was fine while the cat decided the hairdryer was the enemy.

Neji shook his head, coming out in house pants and a long sleeved shirt. "Your cat is demented." He glared at it, contemplating brining out the hair dryer to torment it with.

"He just thinks he's taking care of you." She held out a cup of tea for him. She nodded outside to point out the increasingly worse weather approaching. "Good thing you got back when you did hm?"

Neji looked out the window and made a face. "Yes." The wind was blowing harder than before, and by the sounds of it, the freezing rain had started. "The whole city's going to be buried by tomorrow."

"Works for me." She crossed her arms and leaned back against one of the walls. "Like an extra day off would really kill you?" She glanced at him, knowing Neji certainly didn't object to another day off.

"I'll gladly welcome it." He stretched, glancing at the clock. "We still have time to at least work on drawing out the seals on paper."

"If you really want to." She shrugged. She had spent most of the day fine tuning the basic seals. "I mean, most of my day was spent making the basic seal to contain chakra, it's more or less just fine tuning." She smiled at his expression. "Yes, I did some work, yes it was clever, and yes I did it just because I was feeling like saving you time and effort."

"Then we won't have much to do to get to the next step." Neji nodded, going for the stairs. He didn't put up the wards, they weren't going much in the way of ninjutsu, and it might gather unwanted attention.

Tenten followed him downstairs and lay down on the floor. Being comfortable while working was essential, and unlike Neji she refused to sit absolutely still, in the same bloody position for three or more hours. "So more or less, we're just adding to what I've already done right?" She tossed a kunai to one of the targets on the far side of the room and waited for his answer. She looked over what she had finished and then looked up at him.

He was looking over the seals that Tenten had made with scrutiny. "Right. It looks like the basics are here fine. We'll just need to inscribe the details and infuse them with my chakra. After a few test runs and fine tuning, we'll be able to move to the next phase." It was wonderful; Tenten had surpassed what he had expected of her with her work.

"Which is?" She was playing with a kunai while lying on her back, she had to tilt her head back to see him and even then he looked funny being viewed upside-down.

"Perfecting our ability to suppress our chakra while hiding ourselves with Haru's. After that, we begin our infiltration and find the research that must be destroyed, and find who needs to be eliminated; then we eliminate both. Then the mission is complete, and we'll return to Konoha."

"It always sounds so easy when you say it like that." She told him watching the light of the room reflect off the weapon in her hand. "You make it sound too easy." She added, flicking the kunai across the room to another target.

"It is that easy." Neji said. "There will be a lot of hard work and frustrations and general moments where it will be life or death, but that in essence, that is all we need to do." he picked up Ryuu, handing him to Tenten. "Will you take the little monster upstairs?"

She nodded and got to her feet, holding the cat lightly against her shoulder while he purred loudly in her ear and rubbed against her cheek. "Ryuu, don't worry I'll play with you in a bit." She felt bad, the cat had been left to his own devices all day, he was probably very lonely. She set him down at the top of the stairs and rubbed his ears lightly. "We'll be up soon, I promise." She told the cat sliding the door shut and hoping he would just go play with a toy for a bit. The last thing she wanted was to feel guilty while he cried outside the door.

Of course that lead to pathetic sounding meows coming from outside the door, as well as a light scratching as Ryuu tried to rejoin them.

"Aw, Neji I can't just leave him..." Tenten kept throwing sympathetic glances toward the door, despite her attempts to actually completely descend the stairs.

"He'll be fine Tenten. You said it yourself, you'll play with him later." He busied himself with the tags.

"Yeah but..." She got down the last two stairs only to be stopped by another pitiful meow.

"He's a cat Tenten. Do not let him rule your life." Neji continued to scribble, trying something new on the second tag.

"I just feel bad..." She sat down slowly and watched him add to the seals. "Ok, so what are you trying to get this one to do?" She leaned closer to look over his shoulder.

"The first one will hold a majority of my chakra." He gestured to the first finished seal."That will go over your heart chakra. The one I'm writing now will help to distribute my chakra to different points of your body to help buffer and maintain a shield against Haru's chakra."

"How long will it last?" She asked watching him adjust the seal slowly.

"The ones I'm making now should last about six hours if you don't call upon more chakra then allowed." he explained, finishing his drawing and checking it over for flaws.

"Well that's good at least." She nodded. Six hours depending on how much chakra she'd need. "That's really good." She sat back and looked over some of their combined notes, that he referenced every few minutes.

He nodded. "It should be more than enough to get us through our runs." He looked over the notes again, and set brush down. "These should be the main ones. All we'll need now is to put a few focus points on your body for the chakra to converge at."

"You really don't have a backup plan if this fails do you?" She still didn't have a backup plan and she'd spent most of her days thinking about what they'd do if it didn't work.

"Not yet. This shouldn't need a backup plan if we can execute this properly." He reminded her.

She nodded. Plan B was still the same then. "So it's still, if this fails, we're screwed and our country is exposed and a war starts."

"You forget the part where we kill ourselves to protect our secrets." Neji didn't look up from the tags.

"Oh yeah, the best part, how we doing that? Explosive tags in the house, or something less flashy?" She rolled her eyes. Neji could always say things like that with a straight face and never glance up from his work. She could barely hide the fact that she almost laughed at the way he had said it.

"If we used explosive tags, we'd kill your hell cat. That might be an improvement though. I was thinking something along the lines of low level chakra bombs that could contaminate and destroy every bit of evidence they could use again us." He replied in monotone.

"Uh...Neji I was kidding." She blinked a few times and shifted so she could see him. "You're really serious though aren't you?"

"If we don't get caught, then you won't have to find out, will you Tenten?" He asked sparing her a glance that included an arched eyebrow.

"You have a really morbid sense of humor you know." She told him still giving him a strange look.

"If it's humor…" It was more entertaining then he wanted to admit, causing Tenten to make faces like that.

"You know I'm going to let the cat play with your hair while you sleep right?" Sometimes it was really hard to tell when Neji was joking or being serious, even for her. It was rare that she couldn't tell, but she was certain there was a hint of amusement in his eyes.

"If the cat played with my hair, I would wake up and stop him, you are aware?" He put the tags to the side. As far as he could tell, they were perfect. All that was needed now was a trial run.

"Not if you're sleeping deeply you won't." She mumbled.

"I heard that." Neji packed the tags away. They wouldn't be trying them out tonight. "Go on and play with the hell cat. It's still whining for attention."

"What are you going to do?" Ryuu would require at least an hour and a half of undivided attention. Neji would probably just read or sleep.

"Read for a while." He said, shrugging. There wasn't much to do in this weather by himself.

"Yeah...make sure you do that in the bedroom." She appeared thoughtful for a few minutes. "Ryuu likes to chase my feet around when uh..." Well, usually when she was cleaning, which often resulted in her playing a bit of music and...dancing. "Eh never mind, just stay in the bedroom. I need to get my daily workout anyway or I'm going to start getting out of shape."

Neji paused, looking at her. "What do you do with the cat that requires me to hide in the bedroom?" Maybe Tenten loved the cat a little more than he had originally thought.

She shrugged. "I dance and he usually hides under the couch and paws at my feet while I move." She quirked a brow at Neji's very odd expression. "Why? What were you thinking?"

"That perhaps you enjoyed reading the cat your smutty stories more then I originally thought." He shrugged, heading up the stairs and letting the kitten run past his feet to Tenten.

She picked up the cat when he got to the bottom step and held him against her shoulder. She smirked when the cat purred happily. "Good to know your mind is in the gutter."

He shook his head. "I'll be in the bedroom, reading. Let me know if the cat becomes too busy trying to kill the hairdryer to be a proper dance partner."

Tenten rolled her eyes and flopped down on the couch with the cat who crawled across her stomach and tried to climb up onto her bent knees. After succeeding he balanced there for a few minutes before hopping onto her stomach again. "Why? You gonna dance with me?" She called down the hall in a teasing manner. The cat purred and began pawing at the edge of her shirt. "I don't think he'd dare. He was embarrassed enough the first time." She told the cat quietly.

"I thought you already had a dance partner." Neji had a book in his hand and paused on his way to the bedroom, looking at Tenten oddly.

"You're the one who said to call you if the cat wasn't a proper dance partner." She smirked while stretching out, giving the cat the opportunity to crouch down and pounce at her toes. Ryuu was very easily entertained.

"There is something called sarcasm Tenten. Just because I do not use it often does not mean I am not well versed in it." He watched the kitten pretend to stalk and pounce on its prey.

"You're sarcastic all the time, I was kidding too." She laughed. "I don't think you could handle seriously dancing with me Neji. There's a reason I dance solo." The cat crawled beside her, pawed at her bangs, and was rewarded with a light scratch of the ears and a gentle rub of the back. "First time a guy really danced with me, I felt a lot more than I wanted to, and I wasn't too fond of where his hands kept moving."

"Are you implying that you believe that I am going to openly grope you and grind my aroused body against you if I dance with you?" Neji asked, leaning against the doorway.

She shrugged, with an amused smirk. She liked the mental image a lot, too much. The cat continued his prowl, hopping to the floor and sneaking up to his male owner. "Stranger things have happened. Most men aren't entirely aware of what they're doing. Now, this guy, I'm sure he knew exactly what he was doing, because the moment I sprained his wrist, he called me a bitch and moved right on to Ino." Still he had never really seen..."Still you've never really seen me dance. Oh, and tell your male students, if they're going to watch me dance while I'm cleaning and be late for class, don't be so obvious that a civilian can see them."

"I'll be sure to mention it." He nodded striding into the living room and sitting on the love seat, book in hand as he leaned back. He sat mere inches away from where Tenten would be dancing.

She quirked a brow. He wasn't going to the bedroom? That made everything infinitely more awkward. The cat hopped up next to Neji and laid down quietly.

Absentmindedly, Neji pet the cat. He didn't mind the beast so much when it was sitting quietly and not trying to attack him like an overzealous fan girl. He opened the book and began to read, seemingly ignoring Tenten for the written words.

She fidgeted. Dancing was like him doing taijutsu. It improved her flexibility, improved her physical condition, and she had never once done it with someone just sitting there. This is going to be so weird...

Neji perked at the sound of music, though his eyes did not leave the paper. Shifting back just a bit more, he was able to peek at Tenten out of the corner of his eye. She was moving slowly to start, body swaying in the slow rhythmic beats, stretching and twisting. He adjusted just so as the tempo of the song began to pick up, something faster and more techno. He turned the page of his book, lest Tenten think he wasn't reading as her body began to twine with imaginary figures, swaying to the beat. Her cheeks had a healthy flush to them, though he imagined that was more to her nervousness of him being so close then any physical exertion she was feeling. He stared openly when her back was turned, watching her hips shake and her shirt ride up to expose a few inches of bare flesh. A slight heat reaching his cheeks, he turned his eyes back to the book and shoved it down.

The cat chose possibly the worst time to let out an inappropriate meow, causing Tenten to laugh, falter, and glance over her shoulder. It only distracted her for a second as she continued to move in ways no female should have been able to move and when she finally stopped she laughed. "You know, Ino once cursed me to the grave for being better at dancing than her. I told her if she had stopped playing war with Sakura and focused on learning how to dance, we'd probably be evenly matched."

"I doubt that Ino would be able to dance as well as you do even with practice. You have a far better sense of poise and grace than she does." In comparison, Ino's movements were stiff, almost rehearsed at times

"So you were watching for a few minutes." She smirked and turned around to look at him. "I'm flattered that you think so though."

"I glanced." He admitted, not taking his eyes from the book now." Though I wouldn't have to watch you dance to notice that. It's obvious from every day movements and activities that you have a natural sense of balance and fluidity that Ino lacks.

"She's graceful and fluid when it comes to planning fake weddings." She said while sliding down into a split and stretching. "I mean really, she should have been a wedding planner and florist. I know she's a good ninja, but wedding planner really suits her better."

"I thought she was a part time florist." After all, Ino's family did own a flower shop. "As for the wedding planning, she knows how to throw a quick, fancy party. A real wedding would be much more complicated and stressful, especially if she wasn't allowed to get her way." He could only image the fight into would get into with the soon to be husband and wife over clashing table arrangements.

"I'd pay money to see a bride get into a cat fight with her." She bent backward and reached her arms back. "I think Ino would win, but I'm sure she'd come out of it with a black eye."

"Depending on the bride, she may come out with much more than that." He wondered what great ninja war it would be if Ino tried to plan Sakura's wedding.

"I hope she doesn't do Sakura's wedding. I'd like to go home to Konoha in once piece, not divided by a canyon." Ryuu hopped down from his location beside Neji and joined Tenten on the floor. He sat beside her, watched her stretch, and occasionally pawed at her clothes. When she finally laid back on the floor on her back Ryuu climbed back onto her stomach and sat contently. "Why do you look so pleased?" She asked the cat. "You were supposed to play not stare." She scratched the cat's ears and smiled at his very loud, pleased purrs.

"He was more comfortable lying." Neji said, skimming through the page before him. It wasn't like he had read any of the last few pages either. Not that he blamed the cat for staring. He had been too after all.

"I still miss a club setting." She said lightly scratching the cat under the chin. "It's darker, the music is so loud you can't really hear it, but you can feel it like a pulse. It wouldn't be too bad to dance with someone, but when I really get into it, I don't want to be wondering why a pair of hands are anywhere near my inner thigh." She grumbled. A nice, noisy, loud, dark club sounded very soothing. Neji would probably get a migraine just thinking about it though.

"I can already feel a headache developing." He winced from the memory. "Why don't you ask some of your house wife friends if there is a club around here? Go for some girls night out thing and dance?"

"With how many men in this village you said stare at me?" She quirked a brow. "I'm not that reckless Neji."

"If anyone makes a move, stab him with a kunai. You are the daughter of a weapon's maker, even if you aren't a ninja."

"It'd be more amusing if you came, you were a pretty good dancer." She closed her eyes and a small smile appeared on her face. "If you lightened up a bit you'd be perfect probably."

"You're forgetting the part where I would rather allow Nobaru to have his wicked way with me than set foot inside that level of hell again." Neji pointed out shutting the book. No point in pretending to read it now.

"Would you really?" It wasn't really that bad, and she knew he was probably just being sarcastic again. "I meant it too...at least I could trust your hands." The cat meowed lightly when he leaned too far into an ear rub and fell sideways off Tenten.

Neji chuckled at the cat, sitting up straighter. "No, I wouldn't. But gives you an idea of how much I detest the mere thought of it."

"Ok, which is worse then?" She gave him two options. Being at a club or faking an orgasm for ninja watching them. "Since your idea of hell is very different than mine, I want to know which one is worse for you."

"The club. The possibility of being molested in the club, possibly by Nobaru even; while being forced to endure migraine inducing music and lights is worse than groaning and pretending to dry hump you."

Tenten's cheeks were stained a light red. "Interesting, can't say I expected that."

"You didn't expect awkward faked molestation preferred to unapproved molestation with dark intentions?"

"I expected you to tell me they were both bad." She answered. "To avoid hell in a club, all you have to do is make sure you have your back to a wall and you trust your dance partner." She answered, picking the cat back up again and playing with the paws that he swatted at her hands.

"So to avoid hell I need to lean against the wall and grind into you with an unaroused body? Sounds like a lovely way to spend an evening." He stood and stretched, about ready to go to bed.

"In all honesty, I'd probably just pin you to the wall and mock Kiba's attempts at dancing while others thought I was doing something very inappropriate with the hands they can't see." She smirked.

"Mine or yours?"

Tenten laughed. "I dunno, I guess they could always speculate both."

He nodded, picking up the cat and setting it on the love seat when it pounced his feet. "I'm going to bed. are you going to join me Tenten?"

"I'll be there in a few minutes." She said sitting up slowly. Her eyes flickered to the window followed by a fit of laughter. "Yeah, school's closed tomorrow." In the time they had spent in the basement, the snow had almost piled above the middle of their windows.

"Good. Then I can sleep in for a change." He changed into his pajamas, thick ones for the cold air.

"We'll see." She followed him into the bedroom and grabbed her warmest pajamas. "I might wind up cuddling." Three pairs, and she still felt a bit chilly.

"You cuddle even when it's hot. This doesn't surprise me." It was so cold, he might even be the one to initiate cuddling.

"Yeah but this time I really need it. All the other times it's just because that's how I sleep." She shrugged. "This time it's really cold."

"Is cold cuddling different from normal cuddling?" He looked at her oddly.

"Yeah...normally I'm not shivering." She pointed out.

"Get a blanket from the hallway. There should be that quilt your mother mailed us last week." That had been an embarrassing picture. Tenten's mother had explained it was their marriage blanket, and had went as far as to include a piece of Tenten's baby blanket in the design.

"No way, I'll take my chances with just what we have and you, thanks." She was almost as mortified as Neji had been. She had burst out into laughter shortly after though, and it took him at least an hour to laugh.

"It's thick though, twice as thick as any of our blankets." He reminded her as he slipped into the bed, moving the cat off his pillow.

After holding off for a few minutes she went down the hall and grabbed the quilt. She returned to the room with it held out in front of her like a sick creature before unfolding it and throwing it across the bed. She crawled under the blankets and close to Neji while the cat burrowed under the quilt but above their main blankets. "Ok so it's a bit warmer than what we have..." She conceded.

"The demon seems to like it." Neji prodded the purring bump under the covers before laying back. He was not going to admit that he had wanted the thick blanket.

"You can admit you were cold, you know." Tenten stated snuggling closer to Neji. "I have no issues admitting I'm freezing cold. I mean the snow is up to the middle of our windows, it'll be roof high by morning, I'm sure." It was a good thing that they had kept a walk way cleared to their house. That would only be waist high by morning.

"If we're lucky we'll be snowed inside and not have to deal with anyone for a few days." He ignored the comment and wrapped an arm around Tenten's waist.

"Good thing I went to the store." She murmured, closing her eyes and sighing softly. "Really good thing I went to the store."

"Yes. Now we won't have to eat the cat to fend off starvation." He yawned, closing his eyes. "Good night Tenten."

The cat hissed from his little bawl under the quilt, causing Tenten to laugh very quietly under her breath before whispering her good nights and pressing a bit closer for warmth.