AN: Merry Christmas, Narutards everywhere. I'm actually proud of this one, so please review and let me know how I did!
Song 'My Girl' is property of whoever; I just liked the allusion.
"No," he tells her, plain and simple.
She curls her head in, clasping the small, fat thing against her cheek; it is cold outside and he has the month of May, in her shining eyes and frost-tinged nose. Amidst holly and lights and all thoughts of capitalism, she is stunningly herself, and all he wants this year. He does not want a dog.
"It's me, or that." he says, even if he sees her point. The puppy, tawny with small dots of cream for eyebrows and paws, has such meek and adorable button-eyes that even he was drawn to gaze upon it. No. No puppies. They grow into big dogs that ruin rugs and consume all manner of important things.
Mocking shock, Tenten cuddles the dog's body against the curve of her neck and pats his tiny head with a single finger, staring into Neji's lavender eyes as if they are the only two beings that exist in this crowded pet store, and in the world at large,
He ends up coughing up enough for the bare essentials, and a furry little dog bed, which he knows full well the thing would outgrow if it could ever be expected to sleep in it at all.
Home life is none so different, but he still fears the unchangeable reality of owning a new being. He remarks to himself that in fifteen years the dog will be dead, and everything will be back to normal, in that way the desperate and psychotic do.
The first night, neither of them sleep. The puppy is wiggly and active, dragging it's fat little belly across them as they try to fake the creature into sleeping between their pillows. They have fed it warm, mushy rice pudding from a tea spoon, and have placed it on a sheet of newspaper roughly every two minutes; it still urinates on the bed, causing Neji to fly up in a tizzy and curse God and animals. Tenten removes the offending blanket, while Neji sets the small thing within a circle of household items to ensure that the animal remains enclosed within a safe area during the night.
The puppy whines. And whines, all night long, it's little nose stuffed pathetically between the small gap in the cardboard boxes and clothing they've heaped up around him. The dog ends up back in their bed, and Neji sleeps on a half an inch of mattress, afraid he's going to roll over and smush the thing. Tenten finally settles it's little form up against the curve of her stomach, and gratefully, slowly strokes Neji's back until he is asleep just as peacefully.
They leave it the next morning, whimpering in the afore-built circle of Pee-Pee Prison with water and some watery oatmeal with warm milk. Neji has plenty to do all day, plenty of forms to sign and deaths to make legally applicable. He's a grown-up now, a Jounin and no longer responsible for only himself. He still hates his family, hates Lee's bubbling dorkiness and Gai's obsession with the upcoming Christmas holiday. He grimly regards the obnoxious lights and trappings of the season and purchases small gifts with what of his salary is left after the Puppy Incident, completely unsure of what to get Tenten. Maybe a waffle iron for their apartment, next payday.
He goes on a mission, two, three days, and returns in the night with blood on his clothes. He is ready to scrub the grime from himself and forget the passage of days in the presence of his dear heart; but Tenten is asleep on the couch, wearing his bathrobe; the dog's little nose is poking from between her breasts, where it is the perfect size to snuggle up. They are both snug, exhausted and unbudging.
Neji gets the bed to himself that night, but feels as if he was the one relegated to the couch instead. He should have ignored both pair of puppy eyes, that day.
The dog walks on his face at night, and Tenten worries over it until he calls her a mother hen and she throws coffee in his face. With second-degree burns Neji traipses off to mission planning in the snow, wondering how something so small could unsurp the safety of his castle. A man's home should be his and his alone; he mulls over confronting her, shutting the little thing outside in the cold and regaining his place sleeping beside her beneath the thick, flower-patterned blankets she brought. Women. Geez. And animals.
He snorts like a cornered bull, and goes walking down a half-forgotten street. He knows what he has to do. Doesn't mean he has to enjoy it.
On Christmas morning, they have two hours before they both depart. Gai is going to watch The Baby, as she's come to calling it, and Tenten was up late packing it's little bag while Neji lay with a pillow over his head, annoyed by the Christmas lights of the next door business. They have a little time for breakfast, for cuddling before they have to hike out the door and leave behind what comforts they have. It's a living, and one Neji can empathize with her little worry-lined face on.
She is flipping pancakes deftly, her t-shirt too small and an apron hanging down to her striped knee socks; he snatches her from behind, wheeling her to face him and staying close as he hands her the small gift.
Tenten's graceful, deathly fingers lift, from bright red paper, a small photo frame; the words 'Our Family' are emblazoned in blue clay, above a picture he found where he's actually smiling. He took it when Tenten wasn't looking, squatting on the floor and feeding The Baby with the turkey baster when he was last sick.
She could weep, and buries her face in his neck with murmurs of love. Neji wraps his sweatered arms around her thin little waist, and glances over her bobbed little head: the dog is sitting on the floor, destroying the dossier book he has to turn in to the Hokage today.
Yeah, he thinks, smiling and pulling his beloved wife close; I love you too.