Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto and the song 'Electropop' is by Jupiter Rising
A/N; Here it is – the home stretch. 'Sizzle' is almost at an end, at last XD! I'm really sorry this last chapter is so late, I was quite inspiration-dead after plowing through three chapters (only three – I know, fail XP) and it took getting out of school and enjoying the freedom of summer to get me to work on it. All the reviews you readers have given this story were so valuable to me, thank you so much for them!
To recap: Chapter three left off at; "The crowd's cheers and whoops were only a negligible buzz humming in the background of Neji's brain, drowned out by two little words that hit harder than even that punch Naruto'd connected with Neji's jaw in that fateful Chuunin Exams match back in their genin years. All Neji could hear were those two short hateful words echoing painfully in his mind. Too late . . "
I hope this chapter makes up for the long wait ;D!
Tenten flashed Neji yet another triumphant grin before falling back and landing on the carpet of grass on the hill. The fronds trembled slightly at the sudden impact, sending the golden light of the sunset bouncing off the Konoha symbol on Tenten's forehead protector. Not to mention her warm brown eyes that glittered with mirth as they peered smugly into Neji's awestruck milky white ones. Embarrassedly, he swiftly darted his gaze to rest on the similarly sparkling small trophy nestled in the tufts of fern between them.
"I still can't believe we won!" Tenten remarked happily. She sent a conniving smile Neji's way. "And I also can't believe you didn't see how I was totally tricking you into getting into playing your character! Darn, turning things into a competition motivates you, huh? I'll have to remember that!" Neji's lips twisted in a dissatisfied grimace as he winced slightly at the word 'character'.
Tenten immediately picked up on his bitter mood. "Neji? Something wrong?" Neji closed his eyes in an effort to block out the note of concern in her voice. It'd been hard enough to sit the remaining competitor's entries at the karaoke competition, at the mercy of his cruel prodigy mind that spent the entire time analyzing Tenten's reactions to every male in the room in the hopes of discovering who the lucky guy she liked was - not like he'd had any luck with that. He had no idea how girls' brains worked and showed affection, much less a quirky tomboy one like Tenten's. Now, any affection she showed him only sent his heart rate skyrocketing - even though he knew by the way she'd stare out at the orangy-pink clouds, a gentle expression in her eyes, she was no doubt thinking of her 'special person', and thought of him as nothing more than a good pal. Every time she sent a smile his way or voiced concern for him, it was like a knife to the heart - She only cares because I'm her friend.
Neji let out a short sigh. "No, I'm perfectly alright." he lied. Tenten only narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. Suddenly she sat up and slammed her palm into his chest, pinning him down against the hill, and hovered over his face. Her frustration-filled eyes glared into his baffled ones. "You. Liar!" she hissed through gritted teeth.
Neji blinked once, completely stunned. Tenten's eyes glinted dangerously as she continued. "Somewhere between the start of the duet we sang and the end of it, something happened. You got all shaky and distracted and completely unlike you. You're still acting funny, even right now! I mean, look at you - I usually can NEVER pin you down, but NOW I even caught you off-guard! The point is, I have no idea whyyou're suddenly behaving oddly, and you're going to tell me, because quite frankly I'm sick and tired of worrying myself half to death over it. Now spill!"
Averting his gaze, Neji mumbled "Give me some room to breathe, then." Immediately, Tenten's weight vanished and she re-appeared a foot or so away, studying Neji intently. He forced himself to look at her, stare at the only thing he'd ever wanted so much that it hurt. And promptly, his brain went into panic mode. How was he supposed to tell Tenten he'd . . . fallen for her? Would he be strong enough to fake a smirk when she'd laugh her head off, thinking he had to be joking? Or, would she just be plain creeped out? Not want to even be friendsanymore? Neji's blood turned to ice at the mere thought.
Then his memory decided to help his fried brain out, and reminded Neji that Tenten 'liked' someone too. Neji's eyes narrowed unconsciously as he felt a sharp pain at the recollection, and Tenten tipped her head in confusion.
"Hey Neji, you really don't have to think too hard. Just say why. It's one sentence. Tops. That too difficult for you in your weird state?" Tenten's attempt to poke fun at him had no effect on his ego - but her words struck a chord in Neji's mind. ". . . Don't have to think too hard . . . just say . . . " So he did.
. . . sort of.
"Can I ask for . . . some . . . advice . . . in . . . a 'certain matter' . . . ?" Neji blurted out.
Tenten frowned a bit, blinking several times at him. "Sure, what's the matter?"
Perfect . . . I'll figure out how she deals with her feelings . . . then I'll know how to handle mine . . .
Neji bitterly grinned to himself. Although, there was still the issue of verbalizing how he felt about HER to her face - even though she wouldn't know he was talking about her.
Finally, after a painfully awkward silence, Neji brought himself to utter " . . . What does it mean when . . . you get . . . " here his eyes narrowed and lips twisted in annoyance at the adjective he was about to use " . . . 'fluttery', if you will, . . . around someone?"
Tenten's eyes flew wide open. ". . . Um . . . could you maybe . . . elaborate on that a bit . . . ?" she managed. 'Fluttery' . . . ? That must mean . . .
Neji's eyes narrowed as he studied her round ones. She's stalling . . . why is that . . .he mused. As incredibly vulnerable as it made him feel to express his . . . symptoms . . . from being around her to her very face, he reluctantly concluded that he could get more details from her the more he talked. So, he created a list.
". . . When your . . . ribcage, I suppose, feels warm and tingly whenever they look at you. When you feel like your world is crumbling down around you when they're hurt, or in danger, or perilously close to either. How that unstable feeling morphs swiftly into a rush of sturdy relief once you see they are fine, and you remember of course they would be, they can take care of themselves - yet, you worry every time anyways. They steal your focus, when you look at them it's as if you two are the only ones in the world. And when they look away first, they might as well have plunged a kunai through your chest . . . "
It took all of Neji's composure to not smack his hand over his mouth to stop the words from flowing out. He most certainly had NOT intended to allow all THAT to escape the confines of his mind.
Eyes as wide as saucers, Tenten just stood there staring at Neji. Is this . . . some kind of sick joke? . . . That's exactly how . . . I feel . . . around . . . him . . . "I . . . I think you're . . . in . . . love, . . . Neji . . . "
The jonin sent her one long look before muttering "Hn . . . I thought as much . . . "
Tenten blinked. 'Thought as much'? How long has this . . . been . . . going on . . . ?
Alright . . . now go in for the kill . . . Neji thought silently, trying to shake off the awkwardness that hung thick in the air. "And . . . may I ask what you're supposed to do about it . . . ? If that person . . . has no idea . . . " His voice gave out. She couldn't possibly need more than this to figure out he liked her.
Neji's query was met by a bitter laugh from Tenten. She flopped down the ground once again, tucking her arms under her head. "Well, there's not a lot you can do then, is there? I'm sure as heck not confessing. All you can really do is . . . accept it . . . " Tenten grinned wryly to herself. I'm talking to the guy I'm in love with about him. And he has no idea . . .
'Accept it' . . . Well that was a bit of a blow to the heart. Not like she actually realized she was basically telling him off, though . . . Neji couldn't help slumping a little in the grass.
A loud sigh erupted from Tenten. "Y'know what - maybe, just maybe, I'll get up the guts to tell him . . . eventually . . . " She smiled sadly at Neji. "Shall we make a deal? I'll promise to tell my person, if you'll tell yours. Someday . . . " Tenten tacked on that last word as an afterthought.
This was all wrong. Was he really making a pact with the very girl he liked to tell her sometime later on? When she thought he meant . . . an entirely different person . . . Neji resisted the urge to facepalm. Instead, he smirked reluctantly. "Someday . . . "
Tenten held out her pinky. "Now, we promise." She blinked expectantly at him. Neji raised an eyebrow at the childish gesture, but complied. Resting her head on her hands, Tenten gazed up at the soft orange clouds drifting lazily overhead. Neji sat with his eyes closed, trying to commit to memory the feeling of her warm fingers curled around his.
The promise lingered in the air, swirled about in the breeze, and wove its way into their hearts.
. . . Someday . . .
A/N; . . . And there's the end. Thank you so much for taking this journey with me! I hope this story was worth following, and I hope you all like the rather bittersweet ending ^_^ Feedback would be most appreciated!