Long time no drabble, huh? Thanks for all the love for this collection! It's been kind of sporadic these last few months, but I appreciate it all the same!
This piece ran away from me. It didn't turn out the way I envisioned it (which, really, when does that ever happen?), but I like it well enough.
Hopefully you can see some writing progress on my part. :)
Disclaimer: M.K. owns all characters and places. I don't.
When Neji has meetings with his family, it is not unusual for him to arrive at TenTen's apartment afterwards, in desperate need of some calming tea.
It is known to very few that TenTen brews the best tea in Konoha, but it is a fact that her teammates take ample advantage of.
Neji paused at TenTen's kitchen doorway, silently watching her hands grasp the kettle to pour the water in a single cup.
"Do you want some?" TenTen asked him, not sparing him a glance as she focused.
"Please," Neji answered.
TenTen nodded absently to herself and reached into a cabinet to withdraw another cup.
Neji sat down at TenTen's small kitchen table, wiping his face with one hand tiredly.
He peered over at TenTen again.
She was dipping the bags in now, sprinkling some of her own spice in the mixture. Her face was relaxed, her movements slow. Her brow was smooth, at peace.
Neji blinked as TenTen slid his cup into his palm and took a seat across from him, quietly blowing in her cup before sipping the tea gingerly.
Her brown eyes fixed on his, placid and waiting.
Neji took a long time to speak, taking periodic sips of his tea.
When he finally divulged what had transgressed, it was close to an hour later.
"You know that Hinata is being groomed to become the next clan leader," Neji said, gaining a nod from TenTen before continuing. "She had a meeting with the Elders today and brought forth her ideas about the branch family. She wants to do away with the curse mark, but the Elders automatically refused her. They said that the branch family was the best for the Hyuga, and that it is a tradition that goes back decades. They will not let her abolish it."
TenTen held Neji's gaze, remaining silent.
Neji drained the rest of his tea and sighed.
"I'm tired of being a tool, TenTen. I want my freedom."
TenTen's chair scraped against the tile floor, and then she was sitting on Neji's lap, her strong arms around his neck.
He breathed in her scent, nestling his head into the crook of her neck.
TenTen turned her face to his and captured his lips, working to remove the invisible noose around his neck.
Neji let his eyelids shut as he released his inhibitions, sliding an arm around TenTen to draw her closer.
In these moments where Neji was feeling lost, TenTen was the only person who could ease the hurt and help him find his way back.
"You're not a tool," she panted as they parted for air. "You're the strongest, fastest, most skilled shinobi of our age group. You're careful and precise and smart. You understand what people need. Being a shinobi isn't who you are, Neji. Not all of it. There are parts of you that are just you. You're more than what they say you are."
Neji studied TenTen's irises, noting the strong belief within them.
Neji knew he had people who believed in him. People of the village looked at him and saw a strong pillar of strength and duty. He was the prime example of the Hyuga clan, even with his branch status.
But few were as steadfast as TenTen was. She was unending support. She had always been the forerunner, helping him spar, enduring his tough training regimes just so she could be of use to him.
And in these moments, when Neji was himself weak, she was the one who carried him home, back to safety.
"Don't ever leave me," Neji murmured.
Surprise lit TenTen's face for a moment and she nodded easily.
"Never," she promised, leaning forward to taste his mouth again.
They companionably stood at the kitchen sink, rinsing and drying the kettle and cups they had used.
"You're welcome to stay the night," TenTen offered, letting the warm water fill the mug.
Their relationship had progressed steadily over the past few months, so it wasn't a ludicrous suggestion. Besides—only a few minutes ago they had been locked together in a passionate embrace, and Neji had been close—so close to losing his control where TenTen was concerned.
And Neji could not deny that he did want to stay. The spark in TenTen's eyes only moments before had set him aflame inside. She was ready, and that made him want to be ready for her.
"I should get back to the compound," he softly declined.
TenTen nodded simply, seeming unbothered by his refusal.
She passed him a mug to dry, her soapy fingers brushing against his dry ones. Neji accepted the mug and passed it to his left hand, freeing up his right to grasp TenTen's chin.
He placed a small, chaste kiss on her forehead.
Soon—soon he would be everything she wanted him to be and hopefully more.
"You're already everything I want," TenTen whispered to him, her breath leaving chills across his exposed neck.
"I want to be more," Neji replied, taken off guard by how well she could read him.
TenTen closed her eyes and ran a sudsy hand down his chest.
"You're enough for me."
Neji paused, feeling the deep ache of desire in the core of his body. He ran a hand through her bangs, coasting over her buns to rest on the back of her head.
He wished he could absorb every part of her tonight. But he had already said no.
Slowly, TenTen moved away, catching his eye as she turned back to the sink.
"It's an open offer, Neji. We don't have to rush it."
Neji wouldn't mind rushing it, especially tonight, but his previous decision held him back. He was nothing if not a man of principle.
"Soon," TenTen said, extracting from his mind again.
Neji nodded and finished drying the mug he'd been given.
A moment later, the dishes were put away and TenTen was walking Neji to the door.
She squeezed his hand as he pressed his lips to hers, and when he lingered she gave his chest a firm push.
Neji took the hint and slipped out the front door, feeling renewed, the struggles with the clan—at least for the moment—far from his brain.
That tea always could do the trick.
Review if you wish.