Tenten felt a smile slip on her face, and somehow, she just couldn't force herself to wipe it off. She put the final touches on of her makeup on, and marveled at the way she was able to pull up the long tresses of her hair into something formal yet casual all without leaving her with a giant headache from all the bobby pins. She flattened the front of her dress one more time, the slipped on her heels and made her way towards the Hyuga compound.
The last hour or so of sunlight would keep her warm enough, but once the sunset she would probably need a light jacket. She wasn't sure how long she was going to stay, so she opted to leave it behind.
He was dressed smartly in grey and straight lines that set off his broad shoulders and reminded her how cut he must be as his clothes hugged his sinewy form. His hitai-ate was replaced with a simple black clothe that hid his seal that seemed to make his eyes appear silver. She was again astounded that even though Tokuma and Neji's eyes were essentially the same, the sincerity and genuine affection seemed to pour out of Tokuma's, much like the way cold and calculating hardened Neji's. The two seemed infinitely different, despite the familial bond they shared.
"You look amazing," he commented to her when he finally found his voice. He had been staring at her a bit awe-struck, and she had to admit, it was quite flattering.
"Not too bad yourself," she smiled back at him. Turning with consummate precision, he offered her his arm to hold as they made their way across the inner courtyard and down the hill to where the common branch members resided. The trees along the courtyard happily accepted the company. They seemed proud to show off their new coat of leaves that the fresh spring rains had adorned them with in the light of the evening sun. Tenten could not have envisioned a more picturesque outing. Tokuma kept her chatting affably about Team Gai and Anko as they walked the paths around the complex until they reached a set of stairs and descended into the lower level of the Hyuga residence.
"There are quite a bit of Hyugas," he explained as he moved a branch of a barberry tree out of the way that was overhead so that it wouldn't hit her, "The eye thing is just a bit more rare. Most of us are not ninja for that reason. My father was not, and he had hoped that I did not posses what he considered to be a curse on our family. Hizashi took over my formal training because of this."
"Is that why you and Neji don't get along," she blurted out, drawing the connection to Neji's open hostility of his cousin. "I've seen the dirty looks he gives you whenever you are around. There has to be more to it than that." She brushed social graces aside because getting to the bottom the acrimonious account between two Hyuga family members was nagging the better part of her curiosity.
Tokuma nodded the affirmative, "Although he may not seem like it, he does have the very best intentions at heart." He smiled at her, an almost sad half-smile that told her that there was more to his story than just a few growing pains of jealousy surrounding Neji's late father. They walked further along the path that soon became shrouded from lush, verdant trees ensconcing an entrance to a private garden. She almost missed Tokuma's white toothy smile as he announced, "We are here," as he pulled back some branches of a weigla to let her in on the breath-taking view.
Tenten had seen her fair share of beautiful gardens before, but the sight she beheld made her smile so much with girlish delight she couldn't help but grin until her face hurt. The koi pond was masterfully displayed in the middle of garden, which was surrounded by delicate flowers and plants of all kinds, all in the peak of their bloom. She was certain that there appeared to be every color of the rainbow as she cast her gaze upon them, expertly matched in hues that accented each other and made them at their height of pleasing to the eye. She had unconsciously walked away from Tokuma to get a better view of it all, twirling around like child, unable to formulate exactly how giddy the whole of her elegant surrounds suddenly rendered her.
Tokuma had stopped a few paces behind her, hands behind his back in that nervous fashion of his. He was standing tall, awaiting any comments that she might have reserved for him. He was all too adorable, and handsome, and somehow still Hyuga which almost made him seem regal. To say that Tokuma was charismatic seemed like an understatement to her.
"This is amazing," she spoke when she had finally found her voice. "Thank you for sharing it with me." She tried to keep what she said limited to praise and gratitude, and not questioning whether or not he had time or talent to accomplish such an outstanding feat.
They walked over to a stone bench at one of the corners of the garden that offered shade from the setting sun. The golden rays of the sun's last light were illuminating the garden, bouncing light off of every pedal and leaf, and reflecting back the tranquility of the pond so much that Tenten couldn't help but sigh as if in relief.
"This is the most beautiful place I have ever been to," Tenten watched as a few irises bobbed jovially in the breeze. She had never seen a more aesthetically pleasing place before in her life. He stood up from his spot on the bench to reach up and pull a blossom from a tree peony. He twirled it around a quarter of a turn with the pads of his thumb and fingers before letting Tenten see it properly. The blossom was a bright pinkish-red with stunning long petals that seemed to burst from its stem.
"It's quite lovely," she caught his gaze, and nearly lost herself in his captivating rich grey eyes for a moment. He sat closer to her on the bench and faced her.
"Then it will be quite out-shined," his voice was low and laced with his deepest sincerity, as he tucked the flower gently at the side of the elegant knot she had formed that evening in preparation for such an occasion. His hand slowly made its way back to him, but not after lingering on some of the misbehaved tendrils that escaped the pinned up-do. Tenten could feel a spark jolt through her, even at such a small and gentle touch. Suddenly he was no longer tentative, as he drew his body closer to hers and Tenten closed her eyes and let his mouth fall down on hers with a very hesitant brush of his lips.
The kiss was a complete tease, tantalizing her senses as she could feel his body and his body heat so close to her. The warmth spread over her as the fizzy tingling that had when his fingertips brushed the back of her neck. His chakra pulsed as his heart raced next to her, and as she leaned in to deepen the kiss, alarm struck her as his lips pulled away and another person came forcefully between them.
Neji had come out of nowhere, like a Wrath God bent on revenge and destruction. He had descended upon them like a bolt of lightning, hiding intention and chakra so well that neither of them had seen nor felt him coming. Calmly fuming in his gentle fist pose, all Tenten could make out was the back of his Hyuga robes and Tokuma off in the distance clutching his chest as he crouched on the ground in front of the pond. Neji had expertly hit him, all without hurting Tenten, but somehow, that wasn't going to stop a certain Hyuga from getting piss pounded in the end.
The utter indignation and distain for Tokuma laced Neji's voice as his eyes narrowed on his cousin still gasping for air with his hand over his heart, "I told you to stay away from her."
Tenten tried to figure out in her head why Neji of all people would be making that kind of statement like some kind of jealous boyfriend. They were teammates, and because of that fact, friends by default. Neji had no romantic feelings for her whatsoever. The statement he made confused her, but more important and relevant to Neji's safety, it also made her quite angry.
Tokuma spoke up while she was processing the information, "It is only a matter of time before the council pushes it through," he rasped and made an attempt at getting up. Tokuma collapsed to the ground and suddenly Tenten realized from the years of knowing her teammate so well exactly where Neji had hit Tokuma.
The blow he landed was intended to be lethal, constricting the circulation of chakra to a diminutive flow around his pericardial cavity. Neji struck with the intent to make his point once and for all: Tenten was hands off. Tokuma must have been able to dodge the brunt of it at the last second, or he wouldn't have been able to breathe much more than a few breaths before passing out.
Before Tenten could process Tokuma's words, Neji was already speaking, "You are only fooling yourself if you think that. The bearings on the Cursed Seal follow the old regime and cannot so easily be overthrown as the tradition for using it has stood firm for generations. New Hokage or not, there is little that can be done to overthrow the fate that has been dealt you or me." Neji's hard voice became a chill on the once warm breeze, striking Tenten like cold water down her spine. She used it as gumption to run past her teammate and go to Tokuma's side. Propping him up so that he could breathe easier, Tenten looked at the narrow eyes of Neji, pleading with him to undo what he had done.
"Fix him before he suffocates!" Tenten begged as she could see the light begin to shift in Tokuma's eyes. He was fading fast as his chest labored to take in air.
In a swift move, Hinata of all people, swooped in like an angel and released his chakra points with a few swift hand movements. The gasp for air was met with sighs of relief. Hinata stood up straight and tall, like Tenten would imagine Joan of Arc on a battlefield and stated to her cousin, "The council moved to banish the seal. It takes place immediately. I came to inform our cousin because he shares the same circumstance as you. I hadn't expected to be able to share the news with you as well, since you had just gotten back from your mission." She paused as if to let Neji compose himself, which seemed silly since he always possessed some level of arrogant composure in some form or another. "I trust you mission went well?" Who said Hinata couldn't be diplomatic?
Neji nodded curtly, and Tenten had seen that his mission clothes were indeed worn from hard travel and that he was in need of rest and a hot shower.
Neji turned suddenly, back towards everyone, unable to say any apologies for his behavior. "If it can be removed, I wish to do so immediately." Then just as fast as he had appeared, he vanished.
Hinata turned to them both, helping Tokuma up with the help of Tenten.
"The council can only undo one cursed seal at a time," Hinata stated, turning to go back to the main part of the compound, "You have a good fifteen to twenty minutes." And with what Tenten might have imagined was a wink, she headed off.
"I have some explaining to do," Tokuma shuffled onto the bench rubbing his sore chest.
"I'll say," Tenten agreed, sitting beside him once more and waiting patiently for him to continue.
"Neji was a bit concerned about passing on the curse seal. Tradition mandates that any progeny of branch members undertake the seal to keep the Hyuga blood line in check." He paused, as if that should have somehow concluded why Neji abruptly interrupted them so rudely.
"I understand that, Neji has noted that he would not bring kids into this world knowing that the cursed seal would be forced upon them. I get all that," she explained, "but what I don't get is why Neji told you to stay away from me."
"Any children that I produce will also bear the weight of the curse seal. That is until today, at least." He cleared his throat and took a deep breath but still remained a little slumped forward as if to compensate for the injuries inflicted on him.
"So Neji told you to stay away from me on the off chance that we were going to go at it like rabbits and create a hoard of cursed seal children that would be just as angsty and uptight as him?"
Tokuma cocked his head to the side, and drew in another long breath. "My eyesight, for the most part, is better than Neji's."
He jumped tracks, but Tenten was willing to jump in the boat and row for a while. "You have the best Hyuga eyes in your clan. No need to be modest."
He seemed grateful for the compliment and continued as if humbled by her praise. "I was able to note when Team Gai was coming to the complex. On your free days you would have friendly spars on the training grounds. I used my eyesight to my advantage and would make it a note to try to make myself available to train with in case another partner was needed. Neji noted and detested the affinity that I had towards you. He stated his descent on any kind of contact with you, knowing full well that any relationship with me would end up just as cursed as we were. He told me your wishes to have a family, and how it would be evil to spoil those plans since you did not have a family anymore. He reminded me of when my father died, and how much that hurt me. He said it would be worse to force that on someone else. I understood his wishes and your circumstances and did not seek to further my advances until I learned that the council would rule in the Hokage's favor. Beings as it was not yet final, Neji deemed it his place to put me back in mine. I am truly sorry, I did not wish to spoil your evening."
"You did not spoil anything," Tenten pointed out, slipping her fingers over the black clothe that covered his forehead, "Neji is the one that was out of line. I suppose that was his way of trying to protect me. However, I'm a big girl who can make her own decisions. Neji's getting a brutal beating once his forehead sees the light of day. And there is one thing that I am mad at you for." Tenten leaned over on the bench and pressed her lips against his. His eyes seemed to widen suddenly from the contact as he was clearly not expecting another frontal assault. The instant he realized he wasn't going to get sucker-punched, he opened his mouth to hers and let his hands settle on the fabric at her hips.
Tenten reveled in his touch, as the pure electric chemistry between them was palpable. His lips were soft and gentle, like his demeanor, yet full of passion but hesitant at the same time. She broke the kiss from him and replied, "I'm mad at you because we could have been doing this a lot sooner."
Relief spread over Tokuma's face. "Then we shall have to make up for lost time." He leaned in to consume her once more in another kiss that set her stomach alight with butterflies.
She smiled back at him, "I rather like the sound of that."
A/N: I know little to nothing about the Hyugas. But Tokuma does have the best eyes in his clan, that much is true to canon.