late (missed the best part)
Both Neji and Sakura have taken time off to care for their newly born son. They spend most of their days at the compound—Sakura has moved there permanently—and when Hizashi is nearing three months old, they trust a few friends (because Neji prohibited Naruto from doing it alone) to babysit him for a few hours at a time, while they go spar.
(Sakura claims that she's losing her touch, after not being able to do much during her pregnancy.)
They're sitting against their favorite tree in silence, just resting and listening to the birds chirping. He likes the sound of birds chirping. And then—
"Sasuke?" He stiffens when the name leaves Sakura's lips—despite being married and having had a child with her, he still feels insecure with the Uchiha around. He was Sakura's first love, everything that she had fought for until three months ago—if he's not careful, he might just lose the love of his life to him—
"Sakura." Sasuke nods in greeting. "Hyuuga."
He tries not to narrow his eyes. "Sasuke." He and Sakura stand up from their comfortable spot in the grass to address him properly. "What brings you here?"
"I just had lunch with Naruto and the others, and they had Hizashi with them." Neji bristled at the fact that at such a young age, his son was already being exposed to the toxic scents of ramen. "I realized I haven't congratulated you two yet." Sasuke's tone is curt.
"Oh, don't worry about it," Sakura says, laughing. She sounds a little nervous. "These past few months must've been hectic for you, with the probation and legal stuff and all—"
"Congratulations on your marriage." Sasuke bows his head a little. "Although I'm a bit late."
"It's okay." His wife smiles. "It means a lot of us."
Her, Neji thinks. It means a lot to her.
"With my probation in mind," Sasuke says, straightening up a little, "may I ask for a spar from you, Hyuuga? I'll get out of shape otherwise."
The look his wife is sending him says that he has no choice but to accept. "Of course. Sakura, why don't you check on Hizashi? I want to know just how much ramen he's eaten—"
"Don't be silly." She giggles and pecks him on the cheek. "He's three months old, Neji. He doesn't even have teeth yet. I'll sit back and watch."
Wonderful. He can't even beat up the Uchiha now, because his wife will be watching.
They end up going all out, though—he decides not to hold back when Sasuke lets out the biggest fireball he's ever seen, scorching the surrounding trees and oh God he didn't burn Sakura, did he?
It's then that he realizes that Sakura isn't the one who holds regret with Sasuke—it's Sasuke who holds regret with Sakura.
"Don't you dare take her away from me," he hisses as he quickly and effectively shuts off tenketsu after tenketsu.
"Why would I do something as shameful as that?" the Uchiha asks—but there's something Neji doesn't like in the way he says that—it's almost like an invitation to show him what he's got. To beat him, if he can.
And so he fights a little harder. And every time another taunt is thrown, he fights a little harder.
And soon, he finds himself fighting at his hardest.
"Geez, do all men take spars this seriously with each other?" Neji finds himself being healed of a fractured shoulder.
"Sasuke is a difficult opponent."
"Hn." He can hear the smirk in the Uchiha's monosyllabic response, and he tries not to scowl. Sakura would be upset if he did.
When his shoulder is all fixed up, she quickly pecks him on the cheek before moving on to Sasuke. "Neji, did you shut off all of his tenketsu?"
"Desperate times call for desperate measures."
"Mm…well, Sasuke, I can't do much about those. They'll open again with time. Let me see your head—that was a pretty nasty hit you took back there." It's silent while she treats him, and Neji sighs, wondering if this is how his life will be from now on—rivaling with Uchiha Sasuke over his wife.
A pathetic man he is, indeed, to feel insecure in the presence of a mere man.
"Oh, by the way, Sasuke-kun," Sakura hums, voice saccharine sweet, "if you ever threaten my husband about me again, I'll be the one giving you these injuries. And I promise you, I won't heal you with chakra."
And Neji feels pleased.
morning (even the deepest night gives way)
Over the years Neji has been with Sakura, he has learned several things.
1. Women can top men. Sometimes. (He never believed it until she punched him—yes, punched him—and broke his nose. He never questioned her strength again after that. Actually, from then on, he actually kind of envied it.)
2. No, she is not beginning to hate Sasuke's stubbornness in his refusal to apologize and she does not want to punch him into oblivion at the first opportunity and why do you ask?
3. Pink is a rather soothing color, and it doesn't always signify delicacy or purity. (Oh, definitely not purity.)
4. Being on the bottom during intercourse isn't always a bad thing (and it never should be, if it's intercourse with him). Usually, she's the one on the receiving end, but he realizes lying on his back and having her do all the work is actually rather pleasant. (Sakura knows how to use her chakra very well.)
5. "Neji, darling, you know I love you, but beat Naruto an inch away from death and have me bring him back one more time, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to do the same to you. And leave you in the hospital, exposed to the infinite care of Lee and Gai-sensei for a month. Understand?" To which he gulped in a dignified manner and murmured, "Of course, Sakura."
6. White and alabaster are different.
7. "Woman, I have had enough of your craving for Oreos, icing, and chocolate milk!" "Tell that to me when you have swollen ankles, can't go on a single mission for nine months straight, and are due to push a freaking baby out of your vagina in a few weeks' time, you inconsiderate asshole!"
8. Despite everything, she is always there, and always will be—and whatever nightmares he might have will disappear when he wakes up to her soft breathing.
9. Under no circumstances is he allowed to trash-talk Uchiha Sasuke. (The traitorous wretch knocked her out and left her on a bench, and she still treasures him so much.)
10. She is always right. Always.
ink (words written on my heart)
Despite Neji's promise, their second child is also a son. Sakura is a tad frustrated at this and refuses to have sex with him for the next two weeks, and leaves him to take care of their children by himself—which is actually rather difficult. He seeks some much-needed help from Hinata one hour into the babysitting.
Finally, when Hizashi is seven and Mamoru, their second child, is four, Sakura gives birth to their third child—a daughter. She is ecstatic, and vows never to have children again.
Neji agrees wholeheartedly—three children are more than enough to carry on the talent of the Hyuuga clan.
He can't explain how he loves his family—when Shizuka, their daughter, is sound asleep in her crib, and Hizashi and Mamoru are cuddled up between him and Sakura in bed, there is this sort of peace and contentment that he's never felt before. Listening to the easy breaths of his family gives him this satisfaction that he's finally, finally done something right.
When Shizuka is three, and crying because she lost her favorite baby blue blanket, Neji has his two sons standing up straight before him.
"Shizuka is a girl," he lectures, "and not as physically capable of taking care of herself as you two are yet. We are now going to look for her blanket. Understand? It could be anywhere!" The two young boys nod, eager to please their father, and immediately scramble in different directions, looking for their sister's favorite blanket. Determined, Neji makes his way out into the garden, in hopes of finding it there.
Mamoru's pink head just barely disappears around the corner with Sakura is standing before Neji, crossing her arms. "Planning an expedition, are we?"
"Mission Find-and-Rescue-Shizuka's-Blanket," he confirms.
She sighs. "I put it in the wash. Do you know how dirty that thing is? She takes it with her everywhere!" Neji blinks, before relaxing. So it's not lost. "She's napping right now, so hopefully it'll be dry when she wakes up."
"That's good," he says, relieved.
She kisses him softly. "Shall I call the boys back?"
He considers this for a moment. "They need the training."
"Ever the strict father."
He studies his wife, and wonders when he's gotten so used to such a lifestyle. In a room across the garden, he hears Naruto yelling indignantly—he and Hinata got married just last autumn. And much to his surprise, Sasuke is currently courting Hyuuga Hanabi.
He isn't sure how to feel about having two of the stupidest and most annoying shinobi being in the family, but it makes Sakura happy, so he is happy.
"What's up?" He blinks, snapping out of his reverie when Sakura waves a hand in front of him.
He shakes his head. "Nothing." I love you, is all. But he's never found the courage to say it, and he doesn't think he ever will—but maybe this is enough, because as he puts his arm around her shoulders and she sighs, leaning against him—he's sure she knows. She always knows.
And that is enough.
passion (searching for you from within the twilight)
Neji and Sakura are on a mission, their children under the care of Hiashi and the other Hyuuga clan members.
"It's been a while since I've traveled like this," Sakura sighs wistfully. "Even though it's not really ideal as far as my life goes, I really missed it." And he agrees—despite how life-threatening some missions are, he can't describe the exhilaration of a success. He can't describe the satisfaction of slaying an enemy.
He can't describe the disappointment in killing someone innocent.
It all comes in one package, but Neji wouldn't have it any other way.
This is a C-rank mission, where they're gathering herbs that only grow in the frigid and bare land of the Earth Country—Sakura is mainly doing the work, but for the sake of safety, as Stone-nin have never been known to be kind, Neji is escorting her.
And how lucky he is to be doing so, because almost immediately after they cross the border, they are surrounded by Stone ANBU.
"State your purpose," one of them demands when they spot their Konoha hitai-ate.
"To gather a herb that grows in your country," Sakura replies, subconsciously sizing the other man up. She only reaches to his chin, but there is not a shred of doubt in Neji's mind that she will give him a hard time, if she has to.
"Huh? And who sent you?" The Stone-nin leers at her from through his mask, and Neji clenches his fists.
"Lady Tsunade, the current Hokage of Konohagakure."
The man looks over to his comrades. "We heard nothing of this, did we?" They shake their heads.
Sakura furrows her brow. "This is hardly a matter significant enough to inform the Tsuchikage!" Neji steps a little closer to her, just in case something happens.
"Oh? Well, without orders, we can't let you in."
His wife frowns. Neji knows for a fact that Sakura is incredibly protective and sensitive about her medicine—anyone standing in her way for no good reason will be bulldozed over. "There is no law that states that shinobi can't freely pass through borders for herb-collecting."
"Are you saying you're going to fight us?"
"Do you know who I am, buddy?" Sakura pulls her gloves on tighter. "I'm Haruno Sakura, apprentice of Tsunade. I am the first person to kill an Akatsuki member, and lived to tell the tale." The shinobi look a little intimidated by her, but don't back down. "Do you want me to do a number on you all? Because I swear to God, I will, if you don't let me through—"
One of the Stone-nin has little enough shame to attack her from behind, but Neji had his Byakugan activated the entire, and easily intercepted him.
And the fight erupts after that.
Neji loses sight of her a few minutes in; his Byakugan can't differentiate her chakra signature with the others. He's busy with his own fight—ANBU are difficult opponents. But when everything finally settles down, he sees her, twenty feet away from him or so, swaying on her feet, panting.
"I tried not to kill them," she says, smiling meekly. He almost chuckles—but then she collapses.
"Just a little exhaustion," she explains when he has her in his arms. "I had to heal my liver at one point. Well, they're ANBU for a reason."
He just shakes his head. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Mm." She closes her eyes and leans her head against his arm. "I think it's time for a nap. And then we can go collect those herbs."
"Naptime it is." He picks her up and holds her close as he begins travelling again, looking for a nearby place to stay. He doesn't let her go for a single moment.
year (faces that stay with you forever)
Sasuke and Hanabi's wedding is the last wedding Neji had expected to attend, but it happens. Far too soon for his liking.
(He really, really, really doesn't want to be related to Uchiha Sasuke. At all.)
When the Uchiha walks past him, they brush shoulders. Both of them stop walking, facing opposite directions. Neji can feel himself tensing, along with Sasuke beside him. It's been nearly two years since he has returned, but he still hasn't gotten used to him. He feels insecure around him, despite Sakura's reassurance of her love.
"Did you really think I would take Sakura away from you?" He sounds smug.
Neji frowns. "That would've been a life-changing action on your part, because you would be dead. By my hands." He tries not to sound too threatening, but it's difficult.
"Oh? Good luck with that." Sasuke walks away to his wife, pulling her into a kiss while people cheer. Neji sighs. Maybe it's time to loosen up a little—the chances of him losing Sakura is small now. Non-existent, even.
Sakura comes up from behind him, her hand brushing his. "He loves her, you know."
"I wasn't aware that he has the ability to love."
"There are still some human attributes to him. And anyway, Hanabi is very dictating. She'll be good for him." They don't hold hands, don't touch—just stand side by side as the others celebrate. "Do you feel better about him now?" Her voice is soft.
"A tad," he admits.
She sighs wistfully. "They're all the family now, aren't they? Everyone I love."
Unfortunately, he wants to say, but thinks better of himself. "Yes, they are."
Sakura turns and looks up at him, smiling widely. "I love you."
It's a little odd for her to say that at someone else's wedding, but that doesn't stop it from warming is heart. "Yes, you too."
connected (coiled inescapably)
Naruto has known Sakura for the majority of his life. He's known her in her childhood, as the girl who was always bullied for her forehead—he's known her in her adolescence—the girl who would do anything for Uchiha Sasuke. He's known her as she's grown, into the woman she is today.
And she has grown into a spectacular woman.
If Naruto could, he would spend the rest of his life with Sakura. He would like to marry her and start a family with her—but he's never been her type, and he knows it. Maybe she's a bit of a masochist—yeah, that's probably it. She's always been attracted to the men who could never express themselves properly.
But despite all of that, she's happy, Naruto thinks. The way she greets him in the morning, the way she laughs and the way she smiles at her patients—she's happy.
And that's more than he what could ever ask for.
He walks down the street, hand in hand with Hinata—and don't get him wrong—he loves her, from the way she makes him coffee in the morning to the way she unravels before him in bed at night—and they pass by Sakura and Neji. Sakura is window-shopping, and Neji stands behind her, waiting patiently. She says something to him that Naruto can't quite catch and laughs, and a tiny smile tugs at Neji's lips.
When they get closer, he hears Neji telling her, "We're going to be late."
"Just a couple minutes longer—it's not like Lee and Tenten don't know how to entertain each other—"
"I would appreciate it if you didn't make innuendos about my teammates." Sakura straightens up and smiles playfully at him, standing on her tiptoes to peck him on the cheek. Naruto feels Hinata squeeze his fingers lightly, and he looks down at her to see her smiling softly.
"They're good for each other, aren't they?" she comments, looking fondly at her cousin. "I've never seen Neji-nii-san so content with anyone else."
"Yeah. Sakura-chan shines really bright when she's with him."
As they enter Ichiraku for lunch, they watch the other couple walk away—a slight bounce in Sakura's stride, with Neji's hand hovering over the small of her back protectively.
All of this is more than what Naruto could ever ask for.
notes: i know i said that there'd be six chapters in the first chapter, but for some reason, it only adds up to five…but then again, i've always sucked at math. there are actually 25 prompts, not 30. ^^"
WELL, ANYWAY. that's embarrassing. i hope you enjoyed reading these as much as i enjoyed writing them! :D