Author's Notes: Yay, it's NejiTen! I liked my previous story, Koigokoro, so much and had such fun writing it that I'm going to continue on a similar note, chapter-wise that is. If anyone thinks the chapters are too short, that's your problem, not mine. I'd rather post two short chapters a week than spend two weeks struggling to make them longer and lose my mojo while I'm at it. This feels natural, so this is what I'm gonna do. Other than that... Please be so kind as to leave me a review. They mean the world to me, and honestly; wouldn't you want to know how people liked your writing if you were standing in my shoes? ;) Anyways, enjoy my new story! Updates are two to three days in between.

Disclaimer: I don't own nothing.

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Tawakemono

o1. "I'm returning the favor."

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Hinata clutched the edge of the sliding door as she kneeled in front of it, peeking round the corner. This was the Hyuuga compound's largest dojo, a clean, bright space that smelled of wood and incense. It was of more recent build than other practice areas in the compound and therefore stood a little to the side, away from the buzzing activity of clan life. Hinata knew that was why Neji preferred it. In the exact enter of the dojo her cousin knelt facing away from her, perfectly still. No doubt he already knew she was there...

"Neji-nii-san?"

A slight shift of his head, a nod in recognision. "Hinata-sama." She could see the tension leave his shoulders. Neji didn't tolerate it when someone disturbed his meditation - anyone but her. Even so, she didn't like to intrude on his private time at the dojo and usually stayed away like everyone else did. But this was important. She nodded to herself. This was priority business.

"Can I talk to you for a moment?" She asked tentatively.

Neji turned towards her with a sigh, and Hinata smiled. That was a yes. She crossed the treshold, padded across the tatami and settled down next to him. His eyes were patient and she was grateful for it, but her nerves were still fraying. All the carefully put together sentences she'd rehearsed in her head had abandoned her.

"Remember when you told Naruto-kun to start paying attention? To me, and... And my feelings?" she asked awkwardly, wringing her hands.

A frown creased his brow. "Of course. Do you regret me doing so, Hinata-sama?"

What? She pulled her gaze up to meet his eyes, taken aback. "Of course not! I-I've never been happier!"

The crease in his forehead softened. "What, then?"

She steeled her nerves. For Tenten-san, for Tenten-san... "I'm returning the favor," she announced. His only response was the lift of two dark eyebrows. "You... You should pay attention, nii-san." Heavens, she felt like she was ordering him around! Hinata felt entirely out of her league. It hadn't been as hard and embarrassing in her mind... "To Tenten-san," she finished, eyes fixed on the floor.

When a full sixty seconds had passed, she sneaked a look at his face. Neji was staring at her, confusion written on his face. "Tenten," he said.

She nodded frantically. "S-she... She likes you."

"How do-"

"Nii-san," she interrupted softly, "I know what it's like to love someone without them knowing."

The look on his face grew at once more unsettled and yet more rigid, his eyes unreadable. "All due respect, but you are wrong."

Hinata shook her head. "I don't think I am," she stated quietly.

"She would have told me, Hinata-sama." He rose suddenly, gracefully. "Tenten does not keep secrets from me." Hinata could see he had already dismissed the notion, and she sighed. Was it hopeless, then?

"Not 'secrets', no," she agreed, looking up at him from her perch on the floor. "Just one."

"Please excuse me." Neji dipped his head in a stiff bow. "Hinata-sama."

"Of course," she nodded and watched him leave, watched the tension in the way he moved. Her words had abandoned her anyway, so it was no use trying to stop him. Hinata turned her gaze down at her hands, contemplating the conversation. Had she succeeded? Well... She'd sure given him some food for thought, at least. But was it enough?

Hinata smiled softly. Perhaps she ought to enlist Naruto?

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