I'm still in the market for a beta reader, or two.
I have 3 active fics running, and 2 more possible.
They all feature TenTen heavily, most are TenNeji, in some form or another, one is turning out to be a large multi-chapter ensemble piece with the whole village involved with OCs, but no Canon/OC pairings.
Teulere, I tried to send you a PM, but it doesn't seemed to have worked. If you see this, try contacting me through PM. Maybe it will work better for you.
To anyone whose is interested in beta reading my Naruto fanfiction drop me a line.
The following was meant to be a OneShot, but somehow it morphed as I was writing it, and it ends more open ended then I intended. If there's enough interest, I might consider forcing a plot out of it and continuing it. Now on with the story.
A Naruto Fanfiction
One Last Gift
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, nor I'm I making money from this fanfiction.
Neji's strength and charka reserves were all but depleted as he sat in the tree outside his bedroom window. He was exhausted, covered in filth and blood and he was certain that he smelled even worse than he felt. Normally his uncharacteristically disheveled appearance after a mission would not have bothered him, but he had never had a wife waiting at home for him before.
He had always known that it would be expected of him to marry once he turned eighteen. He had also resided himself to the fact that a bride would be chosen for him, it was simply expected, and he had guarded his heart and reserved his expectations accordingly. However it had been a bit of a surprise when the day he turned 18 came and went without comment, and just when he almost believed that the Elders had forgotten or did not care, he was informed a month before his nineteenth birthday that his wedding would take place on the day he turned nineteen. Neji had never known until that meeting with Hiashi that he had been betrothed by his father when he was nine.
The news had, and still did, give him mixed emotions regarding the matter. On one hand, his betrothal without his say-so was just another Hyuuga tradition that set his teeth on edge. He almost instinctually wanted to rebel against it, because it was just another aspect of his life that was not under his control. On the other hand, it had been one of his father's last wishes for his son.
Neji had seen the betrothal agreement. It had been a hastily prepared document dated the day his father had died in his uncle's stead. There had been very few specifics other than his father's name, his bride's father's name and the agreement that their children were to be wed. Apparently a bride's price had already been given and accepted, which made the agreement legally binding, unless of course the bride had wished to return it and nullify the betrothal.
His uncle had assured him that his betrothed had been agreeable to the match as long as some, what Hiashi considered to be, minor concessions were made. The one that had involved him directly had been her insistence that Neji be asked if he was agreeable to the betrothal. Her consideration for his feelings and the knowledge that his father had been the one to choose her and not the Elders or his uncle had softened his view of the situation and Neji had agreed to follow through, even before he had found out who she was.
Neji spent a few moments observing his new wife as his tired mind and body tried to assimilate all of the whirlwind changes that had happened in the last month. Though he had agreed to the marriage, and had attempted to mentally prepared himself for the changes that were about to occur, nothing could have prepared him for Hinata unknowingly outing the secret of his bride's identity. If he had not been walking by the main hall at precisely that moment on that day, Neji was quite certain he would have fainted from shock in front of his bride, his family and their guests.
"Isn't it wonderful, Hanabi?" the Hyuuga heiress had gushed as she helped the servants and her sister hastily prepare the main hall for the wedding that was less than a week away at that point in time. "It's like a fairy tale come to life!"
"Dad's going to think it's a nightmare when he realizes that she's serious about not giving up her life as a shinobi," Hanabi had smirked back, and Neji had been surprised that his cousin had been familiar with his bride while he hadn't even asked for her name.
"Didn't I tell you? She accepted a Genin squad assignment."
"Are you serious?" Hanabi had asked, clearly shocked. "She's been killin' herself taking every high ranked Chuunin assignment she could to get promoted to Jounin and all she's going to do with it is train a bunch of kids?"
"Don't be unkind," Hinata had scolded. "We both know that she is an excellent field Jounin, but this way she's still an active shinobi like she wants and she won't be apart of dangerous high rank missions like Father wants. That way they both can keep their pride and everyone is happy. That's the best thing about TenTen. She can always find a compromise were everyone is content."
"That must be why she's the only one that can really get along with Neji."
The rest of the conversation had been lost on Neji. His brain had started to shut down the moment TenTen's name had been mentioned, and his frantically pounding heart had lodged itself in his throat so tightly he had feared he would never be able to speak again. He hadn't bothered to confirm what he had found out with his uncle, Hinata would not have been misinformed about such an important thing.
Neji had found that information out merely four days before he was to be married to his former teammate, and 96 hours had not been nearly enough time for him to process what had been about to happen. Even now, two weeks later, Neji still was not convinced that this was not some kind of dream brought on by the grueling ANBU mission he had just returned from.
How could it be anything but a dream, he asked himself? His father had betrothed him to the little girl that had grown up to be his best friend despite everything he had done to keep her at arm's length. The one woman he had forced himself to only regard as a friend was now his wife, and he had no idea how to react to that.
On top of all this, just to make it that much more interesting, Lady Tsunade had been forced to take him away (along with several of his guests) from his wedding banquet for an emergency ANBU mission before a single drink had been poured, or even a word exchanged between the bride and groom. The only contact their wedding night had afforded them had been when TenTen had appeared at the Hyuuga compound's main gate to grab his hand before he could join his squad that had been waiting for him on the other side of the opening.
TenTen had smiled encouragingly to him when she squeezed his hand. Neji had wanted to say something, but no words had come to mind. Years of caging his heart and words around her had made him mute.
"I promise to return him in better condition than the last time," Shikamaru had assured Neji's new wife with amusement that spoke of a familiarity between them. A familiarity that hadn't sat well with the Hyuuga prodigy at the time. He had heard that TenTen and the Nara had gotten close during a two man squad mission gone wrong, but he had not the opportunity to witness it before then.
"You better, Nara," TenTen had threatened lightly. "Remember, Temari and I are very close."
Any chance there might have been to exchange words between them had been lost when the Hokage herself had arrived to accompany them on their mission. That had been two weeks ago, and Neji was no closer to processing this situation than he had been then, so instead he choose to watch his wife as she moved about their room.
It was not surprising that TenTen was still awake; it really was not all that late. The fireflies had only just ceased their nightly summer show, and the servants were still in the process of snuffing out the main pathway lanterns.
Maybe I should have waited until the house was asleep, Neji thought to himself, and he immediately felt shamed by his small cowardly thought.
What was he afraid of anyway? Certainly not his beautiful, petite wife, who just happened to be fresh and flushed from her bath. What could possibly be intimidating about her tiny bare feet, her baggy boy shorts that barely hung on her hips, her regrettably tightly bound chest or the riot of wet ringlets hanging free down her back?
In a rare show of self-consciousness, Neji pulled his own hair in front of him and grimaced at the thick coating of mud and gore that had dried hours ago into a hard, unsightly, tangled mass.
"Are you planning on sleeping out there, Neji?"
Neji was forced to grab the branch above his head to keep from falling out of the tree. It was testament to how tired he was that he had not noticed he had been seen, or that she had approached the window. Fighting an embarrassed blush, Neji steadied himself before meeting his new bride's eyes.
TenTen was neither smiling in amusement nor smirking in bemusement at having caught her husband peeping in his own window. She simply grinned kindly at him in a way that seemed familiar though he could not place it. She motioned for him to join her inside with a twist of her hand. With a last look at his less than favorable appearance, Neji complied.
"Are you just getting back?" TenTen asked as she held out her hand for him to give her his pack.
"Yes," Neji replied as he tried not to flake filth on the tatami mat beneath his feet. Reluctantly, Neji allowed TenTen to take the satchel slung over his shoulder, and winced when she unceremoniously opened it and started to rummage through it.
They had known each other for over six years now, though it had been over a year since their last shared mission. They had bled together, seen each other at their worst, both physically and mentally, he trusted her with his life, but the thought of her looking for soiled clothing to place outside the room for the servants to attend to, sent a sudden bout of unfamiliar shyness racing up Neji's spine. He snatched the bag back before she could find anything more embarrassing than a pair of muddy socks and muttered something that sounded like an apology as he completed the chore himself.
Rationally he knew that he was being ridiculous. She was his wife now, not just his distractingly attractive teammate which he had expertly deluded himself in to believing was only a friend. This kind of thing was bound to happen recurrently in the future, but by all that was holy he would at least kiss TenTen first before he allowed her to handle his dirty underwear.
"Why don't you put your weapons on the table with mine, and I'll clean them all at the same time."
Startled, Neji whipped his head up to see TenTen disappearing into the adjoining bathroom. It was disturbing that he was so distracted that he had not realized that TenTen had walked away from him. He had spent years of anguish trying to ignore how she made him feel, and now that he was permitted to have those feelings they were too overwhelming to process, even in small doses. Trying not to dwell on it, Neji did as his wife suggested and began to lay out his ANBU equipment on the table.
Without really thinking about it, Neji lined up his kunai with TenTen's kunai, his shuriken with hers and the senbon ended up in a pile, one indistinguishable from another. It did not occur to him until he was unstrapping his sword that he had never seen the table the weapons were on before. A quick glance around the room confirmed that there were several pieces of furniture (including the bed) that had not been there two weeks ago.
The last time he had been in this room, it had held only a writing desk, a simple chest of drawers, two ancient ink scrolls that had belonged to his father resting on stands on a long table against the wall, and a single futon that he would shove into a corner when in use. Now his father's scrolls were unfurled and carefully displayed on either side of an impressive array of expertly crafted, rare and equally ancient weapons that he was certain were TenTen's personal belongings. A second chest of drawers rested against the wall opposite his, but was far more decorative. If he remembered correctly it was a wedding gift from Hanabi. Hiashi's gift had been the massive, low platform bed that was now artfully positioned under the display of weapons and scrolls in the middle of the wall opposite the window he had just entered through.
There were other changes as well. The table that had once held the ancient scrolls, now had various photos and figurines that ranged from eloquent to childish. The walls themselves had what appeared at first glance to be black decorative swirls and patterns on the cream paint, were actually, on closer scrutiny, revealed to be the same type of seals that made up TenTen's summoning scrolls. In short, the very walls themselves could be turned into an arsenal at his wife's slightest whim. Neji was not sure if he should be amused or frightened.
"Neji? Are you sure you're alright?"
Startled for the third time this evening, Neji found TenTen gazing at him worriedly, and again he was struck by how familiar the looked seemed, but he still could not say how or where he had seen it before. She had pulled back her hair into a single braid down her back and he frowned at the loss of intimacy it seemed to represent. When he did not respond, TenTen took hold of his limp hand and pulled him across the room behind her.
"Come on, you'll feel more human after you've cleaned up."
Neji was glad that she had her back to him now as heat blazed across his cheeks when she acknowledged his horrible appearance. He did not dare resist her guidance to the bathroom because she might turn to ask why and find her normally emotionless teammate blushing hard enough to make him dizzy. Or maybe it was the humid air in the bathroom that smelled like TenTen that was making it hard to think, and to breathe, and to basically do anything that required higher brain functions.
She let go of his suddenly clammy hand to effortlessly move around the small room like she had been living here all her life. TenTen made some apologies and gave explanations for the 'mess' she had left behind as she gathered up her personal toiletries and placed them back in what Neji assumed was now 'her' side of the bathroom.
Thankfully his blush had receded by the time she faced him again. TenTen pointed out his toiletries by the washing area and the hot bath she had drawn for him while he had been lost in his daydreaming in the bedroom. She then pulled a clean robe and towel from a cabinet and laid them out near the ofuro. The situation felt so unreal and dreamlike that Neji could only nod his head in agreement when she demanded that he let her take a look at a wound that was apparently on his right shoulder blade and then left the room.
In a daze, Neji removed his once white uniform, vaguely realizing that he was creating quite a mess of dried mud and blood in the process. He tried not to think too hard about the fact that the tiles were cold and damp from TenTen being in this very spot maybe not but an hour ago cleaning her own body. Instead he focused on removing the weeks of filth from his waist length hair while trying to remember where he had seen those looks of TenTen's before.
They were gentle, loving expressions if a little too scripted, like she was editing what she really felt so as not to offend. It nagged at him that he had seen them before, the comforting smile that didn't express too much emotion, the almost mothering, business like manner in which she spoke that reassured without getting too close. It was so frustrating, because he knew he had seen her act this way before, but never for him.
Once the water from his hair ran clean, Neji started in on the rest of his body, being careful of his back now that he could feel the injury TenTen had mentioned. The handful of small cuts he had acquired during the mission were bright red with irritation when he was done, but none of them were bleeding so he ignored them.
In an effort to examine the wound on his back, Neji went to the room's small mirror over the sink and froze in shock. Quite simply he looked like shit, and he couldn't even imagine what he must have looked like before he had washed up. His already pale face was now translucent making it seem as though he was gaunt with hunger and the juin jutsu on his forehead almost seemed to be raised above the surface of his skin, his nearly white eyes were made even more prominent by the dark circles around them and the overall effect was death warmed over.
Other than the curse mark on his forehead, Neji had never been overly concerned with his appearance. His dress and hair were styled according to the clan's preference, he only wore his ANBU uniform when he was on a mission or as directly required by the Hokage (which admittedly had yet to happen as Tsunade-sama could hardly stand to ware her own Hokage robes).
In an attempt to alleviate his frustration and the knots that had collected along his spine in the 14 days he had been chasing ghosts and finding demons instead, Neji eased himself into the bath. After he had adjusted to the temperature of the steaming water, the Hyuuga began to relax and the tension in him started to melt away only to smack him in the face a moment later.
At the same instant the hot water soaked through the protective layers of scab over his wound to stab his shoulder blade with stinging fire, Neji figured it out. Lee… TenTen had always acted that way around Lee, especially on his very 'youthful' days when the slightest kindly gesture would result in bone crushing hugs and ear splitting cries of joy.
Somehow he had been recast from TenTen's mentally stable teammate and occasional confidant, to a beloved brother that she tiptoed around so as to not induce bouts of insane behavior.
When had it happened?
He had to admit that he had spent the last year and a half avoiding her physically only seeing her on occasion and never alone, expecting an arranged marriage in his future, but he certainly never imagined it would be to her. Had all of his half formed and unrealistic excuses for his absence lead her to believe that his mind had slipped its moorings? Or had the increased amount of time she had spent alone with Lee and Gai-sensei warped her into treating everyone as she did the Green Beasts of Kohona?
But he knew that could not be true. He had seen her interact with others in a very normal, TenTen like manner. It suddenly occurred to him that maybe she thought that this was expected of her. Though he would have never believed it of her, maybe she was playing the role of dutiful wife because she thought she had to.
Neji was overcome with the irrational fear that his marriage would be doomed to a lifetime of polite utterances and careful words, just like every other Hyuuga, just like he had expected, and dreaded all of his life.
After all, he still did not know her feelings on the subject of their arranged marriage. He was fairly certain that she had not known of it prior to himself. Neji could not believe that she would have kept such a secret from him all these years. Surely if he had been kept in the dark, so to had been TenTen.
Hiashi-sama had told him that she had agreed to the match, with a few caveats, but what if TenTen's insistence that he be asked if he wanted the betrothal to continue was for another reason? After he had inadvertently found out that TenTen was his bride, Neji had assumed that TenTen was just being mindful of his distaste of everything that was forced upon him by the clan, but maybe she had been hoping he would not agree, thereby releasing her from the obligation.
It was law that if a betrothal was broken by the groom's family then the agreement was simply nullified, but if it was the bride's family then there were several penalties. One was the return of any bride's price given, another was monetary compensation if the bride had been cared for by her future husband prior to their marriage.
His uncle had said that TenTen's bride's price had already been given. TenTen had been living on her own since her mother died shortly before the Chuunin Exams, her father had been killed years before that. It was logical to assume that TenTen's mother had been living off of the betrothal money after his husband's death. With no inheritance after her mother passed away, TenTen had been paying her own way with what she made as a shinobi. She would have never been able to pay back the bride's price no matter how small it was. Since he had not been the one to reject the betrothal, TenTen's only option was to marry him.
Neji left the ofuro, bypassed the towel and wrapped his still dripping body in the robe TenTen had dutifully left for him. The belt was only halfway tied when he burst into his bedroom intending on confronting TenTen on the matter directly. His resolve was greeted by an empty room.
Though the number of furnishings had increased, there simply was nowhere to hide in the room. If the Hokage ever realized how inept he was in keeping track of his own wife, Neji was sure he would be relieved of his ANBU duties by morning. Frustrated and having no outlet, Neji sat at the table of weapons, took up a cleaning cloth and got to work.
As he worked, Neji began to think. What would he do if it had been TenTen's wish for him to end the engagement? An annulment could be asked for, but under what grounds? They were both of legal age, neither of them had spouses elsewhere, they weren't insane (despite Gai-sensei's best efforts), they were not related to each other in any way, and he was not about to claim impotency and the both of them would be forced to go through medical exams if they claimed infertility, the only thing that was left was that they had yet to consummate the marriage. The thought tasted bitter, but Neji would swallow it if that was what TenTen truly wanted.
The opening of the door alerted Neji to TenTen's return. He turned and found her trying to balance a tray with food and drinks, while holding a basket of medical supplies and sliding the door shut with her foot. Being a shinobi she accomplished it flawlessly.
"TenTen..." Neji started but she cheerfully interrupted him.
"Oh, good you're done with your bath." Neji frowned, he knew that she would have immediately seen him upon opening the door and know he was no longer in the bathroom.
"TenTen..." he tried again, but she turned away to place the tray and the basket by the bed before grinning over her shoulder at him.
"We should think about getting a chabudai," she told him brightly. "I was surprised you didn't already have one. When you use to tell me about how many times you ate in your room I had just assumed you did."
She turned back to her task of arranging the food and drink, and he just gaped at her back, as she continued relaying old stories that he already knew seeing as he had been the one to tell them to her. Frustrated by TenTen's deliberate small talk, meant to be polite and impersonal, Neji's hands flew up to his temples where he proceeded to tug at the hair there, hoping that the slight pain would keep him from walking over and shaking his wife. Unfortunately the motion caused real pain when the material of his wet robe scraped across the open wound on his back.
"Did you say something, Neji?" TenTen inquired lightly, but when she turned to look at him the false, dutiful wife disappeared and in its place was the tough as nails konoichi he had known for six years.
"What the hell have you done to your back?!" she demanded, not bothering to wait for him to answer before she came over herself to inspect him.
"There's blood all over your back, Neji! Why didn't you tell me it was that bad?" she demanded again, but like before he didn't get an opportunity to answer. "Never mind, just get on the bed."
Grinning like the idiot he knew he must look like, Neji hurried over to the bed as TenTen disappeared into the bathroom. Feeling more relaxed now that he was on familiar ground (figuratively speaking as he had yet to be in this bed), Neji eased himself face down on the low platform and felt that same dizzy feeling from earlier when he realized the sheets smelled like TenTen just like the bathroom had.
"I can't believe you, Neji. You know how important it is to take care of these things right away," she berated him, coming to sit in the space he had left for her beside him, a basin of water in her hands and several towels thrown over her shoulder.
"Gomen," he said into the mattress, feeling anything but sorry now that TenTen was acting like herself.
"Alright, let me see," she told him in her no nonsense tone that she only used for him. Gleefully, Neji started to comply then he remembered that he was naked under the robe. He paused and looked at his wife uncertainly and TenTen's glare doubled in intensity even as a blush stole across her cheeks.
"Never mind, I've got it."
Faster than Neji would have liked, TenTen leaned across his lower back, having to actually rest her bare midriff against him in order to stretch far enough for a kunai hidden on the opposite side of the bed near the pillow rests. With quick efficient strokes, TenTen cut away the bloodied material of the robe, leaving his right side bare from shoulder all the way down to the belt of the robe. She used the clean sleeve of the ruined material to wipe away blood smears.
"It's not a cut," she informed him, as she tucked a towel against his right side to collect any flowing blood as she worked. "What did you get hit with?"
It took a moment for Neji to push aside the feeling of TenTen sitting tucked up close to his waist, her free left hand resting against his ribcage for balance as she worked to clean the wound with a damp towel.
"Chakra whip," he relayed, remembering how he had realized too late the type of weapon he was up against to stop the hunter-nin from landing the blow. She hummed in acknowledgement.
"That must be why it doesn't hurt as much as it should, considering the damage," she told him matter-of-factually, and Neji fleetingly wondered how large a scar would be left on his back.
"I'm going to see if I can jump start some of the healing."
Neji did not feel inclined to inform TenTen that the Hyuuga had several very skilled medics on staff and in residence for just such an occurrence. He was starting to feel rather relaxed despite the sting of TenTen's treatment and he did not feel like talking or moving.
The long days of little or no sleep, and the constant depletion of his chakra over the last two weeks was closing in on him now that he was home, clean, in a bed that smelled like his wife, while said wife treated him with light strokes and deep, penetrating, circler rubs of her chakra around his injury.
Some foggy part of his brain realized that she was better at this than she had been when they were children. His specific use of the Gentle Fist made it almost impossible for him to change gears and heal instead of harm, and Lee had never been an option, so it had fallen to TenTen to learn and apply the very basic first aid medical jutsus. A smile flitted across his lips remembering how she railed against it, sighting that they were expecting her to do it because she was a girl, but after the first time he had tried a jutsu and inadvertently broke one of Lee's fingers she had relented, but she made sure that they understood that she was doing it out of concern for her teammates and not because it was woman's work.
"When'd you get good at..." Neji's slurred question trailed off when he could not seem to muster the energy to finish it.
"All Jounin with a Genin squad are required to have up to second level medical jutsu proficiency," she explained softly, her movements never slowing or changing their hypnotic rhythm. "Which means Gai-sensei made me learn for nothing."
Neji grinned again, wondering if TenTen had confronted their old sensei over the matter yet. He would love to see the resulting fireworks.
"I like having you as my wife."
TenTen stilled for a moment, but not long enough for Neji to notice in his relaxed, exhausted state and he was asleep before he could hear her reply.
I thrive on constructive criticism and cookies, not flames.
This chapter's song, Neji
Somebody better call a doctor, doctor
Or wake me up with a shove
I'm gonna knock you off your rocker, rocker
'Cause I think I'm in love
I tried to get a message to ya
But you walked the other way
I need your Magic Touch, don't you know
I've got a habit and I can't let go
Feel the fire burnin' slow
You better get it while it's hot now babe
'Cause I can't let go
Don't need no wedding with a shotgun, shotgun
So don't you push me too far
Don't try to take me for a fool child, who child
Do you think that you are
You really got it coming to ya
It's gonna come as no surprise
I need your Magic Touch, don't you know
I'm after you and now I can't let go
Take it easy, take it slow
You better get it while it's hot now babe
'Cause I can't let go
You never know what you got
Till they take it away
I'm comin' ready or not
Gonna get you some day
I need your Magic Touch, don't you know
I'm after you and now I can't let go
Feel the fire, burnin' slow
I got a habit and I'm back for more
Your Magic Touch, don't you know
I'm after you and now I can't let go
Feel the fire, burnin' slow
You better get it while it's hot now babe
'Cause I can't, can't, can't let you go