A/N: I haven't published anything for a week (I think). The horror!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Tenten tapped her foot impatiently, her heels making a click-clack sound against the polished wooden floor. She heaved a sigh, crossing her arms over her chest and throwing back her head, her eyes closed. She had been waiting to be seated at a table (a table she had reserved two days in advance) for nearly half an hour, and though the brunette was a woman of great tolerance, there was only so much she could endure after a particularly grueling day at work. Her boss, Neji Hyuuga, towards whom she recently developed romantic affection and about whom she fantasized endlessly, had forgotten her birthday. She had been trying to ignore this fact, pushing it aside as unimportant and blaming her own expectations for her disappointment, but now, when her walls had been exhausted, she let it lay plain and bare in her thoughts.
It stung, and her heart constricted painfully.
She had worked for Neji for ten years, and over time, she had become his closest friend. They had lunch together every day, and at times when Neji insisted on staying late at the office, she would too, and they'd enjoy a peaceful dinner. When the temperature dropped in the winter, he made certain the suite was adequately warm for her, and he'd always stop by at Starbucks in the morning to get her her favorite blend of coffee. It was she whom he called in the middle of the night to speak with, to confide in her his worries and hopes. It was she whom he put absolute faith and trust in. Yet, after all this, he had forgotten such a simple date. Oh yes, her soul had been pierced, and from the pain, her eyes watered. She hurriedly reached up to wipe her tears with a handkerchief, taking great caution to not smear her make up. A waiter came to her then, ushering her to follow him to her table. She managed a weak smile, and her voice wavered, her whisper of thanks drowned out by all the noise.
"We're running out of tables. The night crowd was larger than we expected. I'm afraid you'll have to share a table with someone. I hope you don't mind," the waiter told her, glancing over his shoulder.
"It's fine," Tenten assured him, becoming less enthusiastic about her birthday treat as the minutes passed. And when she saw just whom she was to be dining with, she nearly collapsed. There was Neji, looking as perfect and gorgeous as ever, flipping through a menu with an empty seat across from him.
"Enjoy," the waiter told her, turning to leave, but the brunette female caught him by the shoulder.
"Uh, sir, I think I-I changed my mind. Thank you for all your trouble, but I-" her pitiful excuse to escape, however, was interrupted.
"You are causing me no inconvenience and I would love to have dinner with you. Please sit, Tenten," Neji said, motioning to the vacant chair. Tenten bit her lip, and though her mind was screaming for her to run, she indulged his offer. She sat down shakily, barely managing a proper greeting as a lump settled in her throat. She hid her face behind her menu, her eyes stinging. "I'm glad I ran into you. It's been a while since we've both discussed anything that is not business related," Neji murmured, completely oblivious to how much his secretary was hurting. He kept his eyes on the pasta entrees, trying to decide which would be relatively light on the stomach, but all together still filling.
Tenten did not answer him, and he assumed she was busy picking out her meal. He set down his menu after a moment to observe her. She looked beautiful in the mellow glow of the chandeliers, her silk dress accenting her curves flawlessly, and its rich, royal blue color bringing out her skin. Her diamond earrings and pendant shimmered in the light. She smelt of Chanel No. 5, her favorite (and his too on women) perfume, and her make up brought out the stunning hue of her eyes. She was everything he wanted, the brains, the beauty, the immortal perfection. It amazed him, how she went from being that adorable nerd at work (she was usually bundled in three sweater and the tip of her nose, red from the cold, always looked far too kissable to him) to this-this woman in the evening.
He loved her, and tonight he planned on telling her so.
"You look beautiful," Neji complimented, giving her a soft smile. But he frowned when she did not look up at him. Instead, she clutched her menu harder, her brow wet with perspiration, and her face far too red. "Are you feeling all right?" he asked, reaching to grab her hand. But she jerked away, avoiding his gaze.
"I'm fine," she bit out, after swallowing a good many times. She was lying that much was obvious, and that cold tone with which she regarded him, was a cause of great concern. Hesitantly, Neji tried again.
"Is something the matter?" he questioned, the desire to hold her overriding his thoughts. She was silent again, her lips pressed in a thin white line. Tenten glared with the utmost concentration, at the word "mushroom ravioli". She counted sheep in her head, she watched children bother their parents out of the corner of her eye; she did anything that would distract her from the mess she was in. Neji was talking to her, saying words she was sure he didn't mean. The female felt suffocated in her bubble of misery, but depression, she decided, was much better than being hopelessly in love. She was going to try, starting right then, to move on.
Neji was saying something again, and her brain urged her to talk to him, lest he grew angry and fired her. "I'm fine, Sir," she insisted again, meeting his eyes for the first time that evening. The Hyuuga watched her warily, and Tenten's pulse sped as the idea that he knew she loved him, entered her brain. But just as quickly as her mind conjured it, it was gone, just as the suspicion in her boss's features was replaced with a genuine smile.
"I'm relieved. I thought you looked rather faint for a moment. Now that you have recovered, I'd like to say happy birthday," he said, pulling out a small teal box with a white bow, from his pocket. Tenten immediately recognized the packaging; he had bought her a gift from Tiffany's, and the fact stunned her. She couldn't bring herself to take it from his hands, much less open it. As a little girl, and even then, she had dreamed of an engagement ring from the infamous jewelry store. But receiving it from the man she had just decided to let go of had not been part of her plan.
Neji was giving her an odd look again, staring her down, much like she was staring down the gift. "Go on, open it," he said, thinking she hadn't caught the fact it was for her.
With shaky fingers, Tenten did, her heart hammering at an alarming rate. The ring was fairly simple: a silver band in which was fixed a set of three diamonds, two small, and one large. On the inside of the band, there was an engraving, written in cursive. It read: "You are the closet to heaven, that I've ever been." It took a while for her to process the pun between her name and the inscription, shocked and teetering at the edge of heartbreak as she was.
She looked at Neji, letting him take in her vulnerability, her inner turmoil. He reached across the table, wiping a few tears from her cheeks with his calloused thumb. "I wanted to give it to you earlier at the office, but between all the phone calls and the flood of client meetings, I decided to wait. And I realize now that my first words to you this morning should have been 'happy birthday', but caught up in all the commotion as we were, I was afraid you wouldn't take them to heart. And-and then there was something else I wanted to tell you," the Hyuuga said, taking her hand in his own. He slipped the ring onto her finger, admiring how nice it looked in combination with her other jewelry. But he tore his gaze from it after a second, feeling his next words were more important.
Looking her straight in the eyes, he whispered, " I love you. Thank you for always standing beside me through all our years together. I want you to know that part of the reason I come to the office every morning, is to see you. And before I go to sleep, my last thoughts and prayers are about you. And I dream that one day I'll be able to kiss that red nose of yours, I'll able to hold you all the time, and that one day, I'll be able to call you my own. I love you more than you will ever know."
Tenten's mouth hung agape, and she blinked away the tears blurring her vision and stood. Neji followed her lead, holding her hand harder, afraid she was trying to run away. His fears disappeared, however, when she wrapped her arms about his neck, and buried her face in his shoulder. Her toes hurt from supporting her weight, but this pain was nothing compared to what she had experienced the entire day.
"I love you too," she whispered, her lips brushing the skin on his neck. Neji grinned, and a soft, relieved chuckle, escaped his throat.
"Thank God," he murmured, kissing her head.
And thank God they did, a year later, on their wedding day.
A/N: I feel much better now that I have conjured some sappy, fluffy tragedy for you to enjoy. This was a really early birthday present for Tenten, and originally I was debating whether I should publish it now or in March. But in the end, I couldn't wait.
The inscription on Tenten's ring, by the way, is the same as the one on Gabriella Gifford's wedding ring. Gabby will always be in my prayers and I hope she recovers soon.
Thank you for reading and please review!