::A/N:: Chapter Ten! I cannot believe I have gotten this far!

A great many thanks to all of you for sticking with me! I tried to reply to all of the reviewers I could, but then the website crashed on me, and I didn't want to send a second reply and have you guys think I was crazy. So if you didn't get one, I apologize, and I will make a better commitment this time around! But thank you SO much!

This chapter was written about a week ago, but then I revamped it, let it sit, and revamped it again. And out of all three different scenarios, I liked this one the best. So I hope you do as well. Not too many chapters left in the story, and I am excited to finally complete a multi-chapter story!

Thank you all again for your support and wonderful reviews. Insert big smiley face here.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. If I did, it would suck even more than Sasuke...which is A LOT! (If I offended some of you..well...oh well.)


Apple of Her Eye
Chapter Ten

"What the hell is your problem?"

They hadn't even been walking for a minute when Kiba stopped in his tracks and crossed his arms over his chest. Akamaru looked up at the boy, somewhat confused. There was slight hostility in his voice, which did nothing to ease Neji's tension.

He calmly addressed the boy. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, there's a problem, alright. You've been glaring at me since we split up and you have to have something you want to say to me if you forced me to tag along with you."

Neji quickly turned on his heel as his glare intensified. "Stay away from her."

He didn't mean to be so straightforward, but he had been dying to give the kid a piece of his mind. He would not hold back and allow him to be a part of Tenten's life. He wasn't going to have it.

Kiba simply stared at him as if he had said "youth". "Wh-what?"

Neji took a step forward to intimidate him if his words were not enough. "Stay away from her."

Kiba broke out into laughter. "Come on, Hyuuga. She likes Naruto, not me. That much should be obvious to anyone."

Now it was Neji's turn to act confused. Naruto?! There was no way in hell that could have been true! Unless…

She lied to him!

Why? Why would she have told him that she had no feelings for Naruto if she really did?! Was that why she had been so cold towards him in front of everyone? Was it really that obvious to everyone except for him? Had he been reading her wrong this whole time?

He didn't think it was possible for his heart to break any further, but now the pieces were tearing themselves apart. It wasn't fair. He had done everything for her, and he would keep doing everything for her. She probably had no idea, but all she had to do was ask him and he would be hers to command. But…Naruto? That kid only thought about ramen and his future as a Hokage. He wouldn't care about her…at least…not like he would.

"She doesn't like Naruto."

He was more reiterating the thought to himself, as he had temporally forgotten Kiba had been standing in front of him.

"Wait…what? How do you know that?"

He was too emotionally unstable to care who he was talking to anymore. "She told me."

Kiba's jaw dropped to the floor. "She told you?! She must have been lying, then. She told me he was all she could think about!"

Neji shook his head. First off: she told Kiba that she was in love with Naruto?! But when he asked, she said no?! Secondly, he was all she could think about?! Was there no end to this heartache?! His pain was now mixing with his anger. He was hurt she didn't come clean with him. He was hurt that she made him think he stood a chance. But most of all, he was hurt because she didn't seem to care.

"Look," Kiba began, "I know you want to protect her and all now, but you've got to let her go her own way. She can be with whoever she wants to be with. I've come to the conclusion that she would be happier with Naruto than me, so why can't you?"

Happier with Naruto?! No. It wasn't possible! He would show her…he had to show her that he could have been a better match for her than Naruto could ever dream of! He would try and be the person she wanted him to be. He would do anything! He just could not live the rest of his life knowing he just sat back and let her go without trying to prove her wrong!

Then something else hit him. Had Kiba thought he stood a chance?! How many of these younger guys had she been talking to?!

He turned his head away, disgusted. "You thought you stood a chance?"

The younger boy scratched the back of his head as if he was now uncomfortable. "Well, it doesn't matter now. It's just kind of hard being around her a lot, you know?"

He wanted to hear nothing more. He wanted to rip his heart out on the spot so he could stop feeling like he was dying. All because of some girl he had fallen for. He had fallen alright; right onto a bed of sharp blades of steel she had constructed herself. He would have to talk to Tsunade when this was all over. He had to leave Team Gai. There was no way in hell he could be in her presence anymore. Good teamwork or not…he couldn't do it. He wouldn't do it!

Akamaru barked to bring attention back to their mission. Kiba kneeled down to pet the white puppy, but Neji had a strong urge to kick him. Thankfully, he had enough sense about him to refrain from injuring the poor animal.

"Right, we have a mission to get back to. We have to inform Shikamaru that Genno could still be alive. Assuming he hasn't figured that out already."

Kiba walked past him, but Neji could not bring himself to move. His body was overrun with so many different emotions that it took all his mind power to focus on breathing. But Kiba was right. And maybe this would help him get back on track. He was no longer in Tenten's presence, or Lee's, which he now hoped it would stay that way. This could very well be the first step he needed to take to forget about her once and for all.

"You coming?"

He turned and began following Kiba and Akamaru, hoping that neither of them would sense the emptiness in the boy that trailed behind them.

-0-

Everything was going well. He hadn't forgotten his internal strife completely, but he was at least able to mask it well enough. He had even managed to locate a paper bomb that was placed in the academy structure. He had followed the fuse of the paper bomb to what he assumed was the detonation device. Before long, Kiba, himself, and soon Naruto (which his presence caused his emotions to go crazy again) had ran to the training hall to stop the students' practicing. One perfect hit on the target and the academy would have blown up. Yes, for the most part, his mind was focused on defending the citizens of his village.

Until they regrouped with everyone.

He forced himself to focus on the mission, but after his earlier conversation with Kiba, he couldn't help but feel an enormous amount of rage toward the girl standing a few feet away from him.

The conversation continued around him, but he could not hear their words. That infuriated him even more. They were on an important mission, one that involved the safety of their own village, and he couldn't even pay attention to what they were saying because of her!

"…And, there's more than one fuse leading to it."

How he managed to zone in on Hinata's statement he hadn't a clue, but it was all he needed to break away from his emotional agony and back on the task at hand. He activated his Byakugan and followed the fuse's path. With slight surprise, he noticed Hinata had been correct. This wasn't just one fuse's triggering device, but several. His surprise quickly escalated when he realized the line branched off everywhere, to the point he couldn't even see it from within the practice hall.

Good. He needed to get out of there anyway.

He rushed outside before anyone even knew what he was doing. He could have had a decent view from the ground, but if the group followed him, well…Tenten would too. He jumped to the top of the academy to avoid that situation as he continued to investigate the rapidly expanding network of fuse lines.

He couldn't believe his eyes. There had to have been thousands of them. How had this man managed to find the time to place all these paper bombs around the village and still appear to work? It was a feat Neji was impressed by, even though it endangered the lives of everyone living in the village.

It was truly terrifying to think about. What if those kids had managed to hit the detonator? His home, the people he cared about, would have been killed. What if there was another device somewhere they had overlooked? What if the old man didn't need one to destroy the village?

There were too many 'what if's' to think about, so he tried not to. They simply had to deactivate the paper bombs and the threat would be eliminated. He just hoped that old man Genno was going to give them the time to gather them.

"So, what do we do now?" Naruto asked once Hinata and Neji jumped off the building to figure out their next move. But the minute he approached the group, he was once again aware of Tenten's presence. His fear vanished instantly. He had to get out…again…before he did something stupid. Which he already was; he was allowing his emotions to get the best of him in an important situation.

Before Shikamaru could even respond, Neji turned his back on the group and explained his plan. "I will keep watch for any suspicious activity or signs of Genno." Then, without an 'okay' from Shikamaru or another comment from anyone else, he walked away.

Even though, he did manage to pick up Kiba's voice as he left.

"Man, that kid is just a wreck today."

-0-

He really did want to keep an eye out for any type of suspicious activity that could have endangered the village. So far: nothing. No signs of strange movements; no sign of Genno. But he knew the reason why he wanted to be left alone. He had not been able to have a conversation with anyone that did not deal with Tenten. Even Kiba, whom he didn't even know well at all!

But now, there was a new problem. Using his kekkei genkai to make sure there was nothing out of the ordinary also meant he was risking a chance of finding Tenten. A part of him couldn't help but seek her out, just to see who she had chosen to locate the paper bombs with. He hoped she would have at least gone with Lee, but he was unable to shake the fact that she would have rather gone with Naruto.

But Shino?! Really? Did she even know the guy?!

Angrily, he deactivated his Byakugan. If she wanted to go around and talk to every guy that was not him, then so be it. He wouldn't care anymore. He knew that eventually she would realize her mistake and want back in his life. But he wouldn't allow it. She pushed him out and now, he would so the same.

He knew it wouldn't be easy. They had trained every day for almost two years. They went on missions together. His extra time was mostly spent with her. Suddenly cutting her from his life was going to be difficult, but he would manage. He had his family, who would be more than willing to help him train. That would at least take up half of his time, which was a pretty good start for him.

But deep down, he didn't know if he wanted to let her go. She meant so much to him. He had been a wreck for weeks because of her. He wanted to talk to her, to see if he had, in fact, been misguided. He wanted her honesty about her feelings for Naruto. Maybe then, they could at least still be friends.

He heard rustling below where he stood on the tree. He glanced down to catch Lee jumping up to stand next to him.

Great.

"How does it look?"

Well, at least it was off to a decent start. "The paper bombs are nearly disposed of. I have found no traces of Genno." Short, sweet, to the point. Maybe now Lee would leave him alone.

"I wonder what the man is up to now."

Or not.

He hadn't been able to find Genno, but the man had been able to avoid ANBU Black Ops as well. What chance did he have of finding the old man? It had to have been obvious to Lee that talking to Neji about it wasn't going to solve anything, so why waste his breath?

It was silent for a few minutes. It wasn't as comfortable as Neji would have thought. It was clear to him that Lee wanted to say something to him.

"Do you have something you'd like to say to me?"

Lee lowered his head. "I am sorry, Neji. I know you must be very angry with me. However, I can guarantee if you were to speak to her, everything would be resolved."

Neji scoffed at his comment. Lee knew nothing. Maybe talking would help, but he didn't think his heart would ever be able to heal. "You know nothing."

"You may say that I know nothing, Neji. But in reality, I still know more about it then you do."

He turned to Lee, urging him to elaborate. "And what makes you say that?"

The green-clad boy exhaled deeply before answering. "I would not be so blind to see how much pain and suffering I was putting her through as you appear to be."

Please. "I'll say it again: You know nothing. And don't you dare tell me I'm the one causing her to suffer."

"Please talk to her, Neji."

"No."

Surprisingly, he did not continue on. "Alright." He then jumped off the branch they were standing on and walked out of sight.

Now Neji was left alone in with his thoughts. How could Lee not see how much she had hurt him? She appeared just fine to him! He was the one who was suffering! If by some odd chance she felt bad enough, and it was the reason Lee thought she was suffering, he had yet to hear it from her directly. It was her own damn fault anyway.

But, what if she sought him out? Would he really have enough strength to tell her he didn't want to talk to her ever again? As much as his mind wanted to rid itself of everything that dealt with her, he didn't think—no, he knew—that his heart wasn't going to be able to.

He suddenly felt tired. The day had done nothing but wear him out. Maybe not so much physically as emotionally. He missed the days before he realized he had feelings for Tenten, but now, it was hard to imagine what that even felt like. Even though it had only been a few weeks, it required every second of each day. They had been extremely long, which made it seem like he had been battling this war for years.

But he knew it wouldn't stop until he talked to her. But what would he say? He couldn't let her know the extent of the damage she had caused him. She already thought Naruto was a better match for her, so he didn't want her to think he was weak on top of that. He knew now that he couldn't tell her he had feelings for her because of Naruto. The only thing he really wanted to talk to her about was why she lied to him. Which she would probably deny again anyway, so what was the point?

He steeled himself as much as he could. He would be fine. He had been through harder times in his life. He would just emerge from this a stronger and more knowledgeable person. He had to. He would prove to her that he was not a weak child who cried over a broken heart.

Now he just had to prove that to himself.

-0-

As serious as this mission was, Neji soon found himself bored.

He was still keeping a careful watch over the village from the tree he hadn't left in hours, but nothing was happening. Everyone had found all the paper bombs and deactivated them. There was not much else he really needed to look for. Genno had not been found, but he had long since given up that search.

He now felt useless. Yes, his initial intention had been to separate himself from the rest of the group, but he slightly regretted his decision. He could have at least been doing something productive than standing around claiming to do something. His need for space had even backfired on him. His emotions were still as strong and annoying as they had been and he had reached no conclusion as to best handle them.

He figured it was safe to say that his watch over the village was no longer required, so he jumped off the branch to the ground. He could at least find Shikamaru and have him give him something to do. Not that there probably was anything at this point, but Neji knew by now that this mission was not as easy as he thought it would be. He had a feeling Shikamaru knew that as well.

He didn't even walk five feet before his heart sank into his stomach, a feeling that he was actually getting used to now.

"Tenten?"

Her expression was difficult to read, but her voice had a sense of urgency. "Can we talk?"

Lee must have said something to her. When would that boy learn to stop messing around in his business? He clenched his fists together in an effort to contain his boiling rage and did his best to speak calmly.

"I don't want to talk to you."

He didn't even have time to make a move before she spoke up again. "I know, but, please. I don't want you to be mad at me."

Mad was putting it lightly. And it only expressed half of what he was feeling. But he would not let her know that. "I'm not mad at you."

"Stop it, Neji. You have been purposely avoiding me all day, and I know it's my fault. And I'm sorry. I really am."

But she had lied to him once, and as sincere as she sounded, he would not fall for her trick a second time. "Don't lie to me."

She looked as if he had slapped her, but she fought through it and continued. "I'm not lying to you."

His fists tightened at his side as his composure began to crack. "I'm not as stupid as you think I am, Tenten."

She opened her mouth to say something, but quickly closed it. She turned her head to the side as if she was suddenly afraid of him. Good. She needed to be.

"When this mission is over, I plan on telling Tsunade to move me out of Team Gai."

That got her to look back at him. "Wh-what?! Why?!"

He crossed his arms over his chest. "I would work better with people I can trust."

"Trust? What the hell does that mean?"

He forced himself to remain calm. He would not let her get the best of him anymore. "Apparently, I can't trust you or anything you say. That's an essential part of team unity. I can't find it with you anymore."

She appeared to be in a daze of confusion and surprise. He didn't know why his words had been a shock. She had been the one to lie to him. He might have been over exaggerating the situation, but it felt good to know he was causing her some slight agony.

"Neji…I—"

"Enough. You obviously don't want me to be a part of your life, so I don't understand why you are so upset."

She locked eyes with him, and for a second, he could have sworn she was on the verge of tears. "Why…why would you think that?"

The last of his dignity crumbled, but he was able to at least keep his voice low enough to not attract nearby attention. "Why? You lied to me, one. You defied my authority on our last mission. You think you know so much about what I am going through, when you understand nothing! I considered you my friend, someone I could trust. Now you've gone and blown that to hell!"

She took a step back as his voice continued to rise in amplitude. He didn't care. He wanted to keep yelling because it felt good to finally tell her how he felt. Even if it wasn't the full story.

He stopped only when he saw a tear fall from her eyes. He felt bad, but at the same time, he didn't. She brought this on herself.

He spoke back up in a much calmer tone. "Will you at least tell me why you lied to me? That's all I want to know."

She did not meet his gaze and remained silent. He watched as another tear escaped and she rubbed her arm with her hand. When she finally did find her voice, he didn't recognize it as hers. She was quiet, and he could have sworn she was straining it.

"I never lied to you."

It wasn't good enough. He was going to get to the bottom of this before he left. He was not going to continue fighting his emotions anymore. "That's not what I've heard."

She looked up at him, her hurt expression mixing with confusion. "What?"

He took a step forward, but when she backed away from him, he grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him angrily. "I want to know the truth, damn it! I'm done playing these games with you!"

He crossed a line, and he couldn't go back now. She was still for a few moments, but then she began to cry.

He released her immediately. A feeling of guilt spread throughout his body like a wildfire. What was he doing? Yes, he was beyond angry with her. Yes, he wanted her to feel the pain and misery he had felt for weeks now. But…he was not ready for this. He had only seen her cry once, back when Lee was undergoing surgery. She was a strong person, and it made him sick to know that he had pushed her to her limit.

He didn't know what to say to her. He knew he should apologize, but…he really wasn't sorry. Perhaps he was for the way he went about asking her. He opened his mouth to apologize but her voice cut him off.

"I know I haven't been honest with you lately, but…but I was scared. I didn't know what to make of anything that was happening. I thought that with time I could figure things out, but then I felt like you were pushing me away. You kept yelling at me. You never came to talk to me after that last mission. That time in the forest, I was so happy being with you, and I thought you felt the same. That's what I thought, but then you got mad at me, and I thought I was wrong. And when Lee said you may have thought of us as more than friends, you yelled at him. It hurt…it hurt so much, Neji. I told Kiba I wanted someone who cared only because I wanted to see how you would have reacted. But when you didn't say anything…I figured you never cared about me at all."

She left him speechless. She really did care about him! She had been fighting just as much as he had been! He now understood what Lee meant. How could he have been so stupid to ignore the person he cared for the most suffering in front of him…because of him!

"Tenten…I—"

She rubbed her eyes in an attempt to stop the tears. "I just…I don't want to lose you as a friend."

He was once again rendered speechless. He suddenly wanted to rewind time to before she ran into him moments ago and instead feeling the need to yell at her, he wanted her to know how much he wanted to be with her. The need to throw his arms around her intensified as he took a step towards her. But there was still something he needed to confirm before he completely forgave her.

"But I'm not the one you truly care about, am I?"

She appeared weak, as if this conversation was draining every ounce of energy she had. He desperately wanted to hold her in this state, to prove to her that he was the one she needed, not Naruto. He would always protect her. He would always care about her.

She shook her head before answering, causing his heart to sink further into his stomach. "I don't know what you're talking about."

He didn't want to come right out and ask her, but what other option did he have? It would officially settle the dispute once and for all. Hopefully…anyway.

"Kiba has informed me that Naruto is all you can think about."

She quickly made eye contact with him, a slight tint of red showing on her face. He pleaded it was not embarrassment, and that she would just laugh it off or roll her eyes and tell him he was the biggest fool she had ever met in her life.

He got quite the opposite.

"This…this is what you thought I was lying about?" she screamed, fists clenched tightly at her side. "I never told Kiba that! I barely know the guy! I told you, Naruto is my friend, and you still don't believe me?"

He wanted to retract his statement. He didn't want this to become another screaming match. Even though he felt slightly more at ease with her response. "I thought your distance was because of some other interest. He was the first person to catch your eye that I was aware of, and hearing Kiba say it as well—"

"You'd believe him over me?!" He suddenly felt small. She had every right to be angry at him. She continued on. "This is why you wanted to break away from our team?! Because of something someone else said about me?!"

It was now his turn to take a step back. He never saw her this angry. Even when dealing with Lee. "I was afraid you thought Naruto was a better person that I was."

Her hand came hard and fast. The sting on his face was painful, but it still did not cancel out the regret forming in his heart. Here he had basically forced her to confess in tears while he fully believed that she had lied to him. What kind of friend was he?

She finally broke the silence, her voice lower but still as angry as before. "You say you want to break away from our team because you can't trust me. But you don't want to trust me! I have never gone back on my word or said anything behind your back I couldn't say to your face, but you obviously think I'm that kind of person."

Oh, he was going to have a nice conversation with Kiba when this was over. "I'm sorry."

She crossed her arms over her chest before turning her back on him. "But you're not."

She began walking away when he ran in front of her to stop her. "Please. Will you at least listen to me?"

Without a word, she pushed past him. "Sorry, Neji. Naruto is in trouble. And since you know how much I love him, you ought to know that his life takes priority over your excuses."

And as she walked away, he felt for the second time in his life the feeling of losing someone he loved.

-0-

That night was one of the worst nights in his life.

They had defeated Genno. There were no more threats of explosions. There had not been a single causality.

Except his heart.

As he turned over on his bed, he could not shake the moment they were all temporarily trapped in the old man's genjutsu. The ground beneath him had given out due to a missed paper bomb. For a split second, he thought of his family about to be crushed under rock and dirt. But his fear escalated when he saw Tenten fall to her knees.

He remembered grabbing her around the shoulders to pull her up and steady her, and then it was over. Someone had snapped them out of the illusion. He had felt like an idiot then, one hand on each of her shoulders. She glared at him and angrily pushed him off.

"I don't need you to play my protector. I can take care of myself."

He knew she was right. But a part of him wanted to. He wanted to play that special role in her life that no one else could. And when she denied him—angrily at that—his slowly mending heart shattered once again. All he really heard from her was: I don't need you.

It killed him. If only he had believed her from the start, like a good friend would have done, he wouldn't be feeling like he had lost everything. He sat up and angrily threw the covers off of him. He needed to do something, to focus on any sort of pain except what his heart was failing to endure.

He left his room and slammed the door shut behind him, not caring who was asleep or how loud he had been. Maybe he could anger one of the elders and force him to activate his curse seal. As much as the idea frightened him, he deserved it. Maybe it would help get his brain in order and become the person he should have been for Tenten the first time.

He rounded the corner and collided into someone. He cursed under his breath. What time was it, anyway? Shouldn't everyone be asleep? He did not want to endure questions about his strange behavior. He just wanted to be punished for it.

"Ne-Neji-nii-san?"

He swore again. Of all people to run in to, it just had to be Hinata. "My apologies, Hinata-sama. Are you hurt?"

She shook her head, her eyes never meeting his. "N-no. I'm fine."

He bowed respectably, then continued on. "Then I shall excuse myself."

"Wa-wait!"

He took two steps before he halted. Great. He could already hear the questions she was going to ask him.

"Are you feeling well?"

No, but he wasn't about to tell her that. "I am fine, Hinata-sama. Please, do not worry about me."

"You haven't been acting like your usual self. I-is something wrong?"

Yes, but again…he kept that to himself. "Nothing is wrong."

He hoped he had been short enough with her for her to get the idea he wasn't going to talk about anything, but she pressed on. "H-has Tenten-san talked to you yet?"

He remembered that the two of them had gone their separate ways earlier that day. When they met again, he noticed a slight change in her behavior. He thought Hinata had something to do with it, but that was confined to the past. There was no going back now. He had ruined that.

"She did."

He heard her clap her hands together behind him. "Th-that's wonderful!"

But it wasn't. "Forgive me, Hinata-sama, but I need to go."

She must have sensed something was amiss about his sudden need for space, because she stopped him once again. "Y-you seem sad, Neji. Why?"

He never thought Hinata was the type of person to dive her way into someone else's business, but maybe that was how she had gotten Tenten to talk, if she did. He took a deep breath and decided that maybe a middle-man like Hinata would help save his relationship with Tenten. That, and it beat talking to Lee about it.

"She wants nothing more to do with me." She gasped in shock as he elaborated. "I didn't believe her when she told me she didn't have feelings for someone else. She doesn't think I can trust her anymore."

It was silent for a while, but Neji desperately wanted Hinata to prove him wrong. Maybe Tenten had said something to her that he didn't know about. Something that could very well prove to him that he still had a chance to save what was left of their friendship.

"N-Naruto?"

He hadn't expected her to know who the "someone else" was. "I'm assuming she told you this."

He heard her agree. "She said she didn't like Naruto as much as she liked you." It was faint, but he felt a small bubble of hope erupt in his heart as Hinata continued on. "You are always spending your time together and going on missions. It's to be expected."

That faint burst of hope quickly disappeared. She was right, but that still didn't mean Tenten could have found some quality about Naruto he lacked. Tenten still could have been attracted to ramen-eating morons.

"But," Hinata added, "Even though she didn't come out and say it, I know she really likes you. And I know you feel the same way about her."

"Then why is your teammate saying she told him she was in love with Naruto?"

Hinata's hand flew to her mouth. "K-Kiba-kun?"

Maybe Hinata didn't know either. "He told me today that he was all she could think about. He also went on to say that he was sacrificing his own happiness to let her be with him, meaning Kiba thought he stood a chance."

The look Hinata gave him was indescribable. A mix between confused, shocked, embarrassed, and confused again. But then she took him by complete surprise and smiled at him, her cheeks burning in a similar fashion when she thought about Naruto.

"I think you jumped to conclusions, nii-san."

He waited for her to say something else, but when she didn't, he spoke up instead. "How did I do that?"

She grabbed his hand, and that bubble of hope appeared once again in the bottom of his heart.

"Neji, Kiba thought you were talking about me."

-0-

It was cold. It was raining. It was late. But he didn't care.

He ran as fast as he could, nearly slipping a few times, across the sleeping village. After his conversation with Hinata, he now understood why Kiba had been under the impression he had been talking about her. It brought him back to the fact he failed to trust Tenten, but at least now he had solid proof. And he couldn't have felt more like an idiot than he did at that moment.

He finally reached Tenten's apartment on the other side of town. He stopped before knocking on the door. It was late, and if he knew anything about her, it was she hated being forced out of sleep. He actually had learned the hard way, and he wondered if he still bore the small scars of that mistake.

But this was different. He couldn't wait anymore. He had been postponing long enough, and it was time she knew the truth. If anything, he wanted her to know that he would do anything to be a better friend. He would not act so possessive as she probably thought he had. He wouldn't care who she talked to, just so long as she gave him another chance.

His heart was hammering in his chest as he raised his hand. He braced himself for the screaming and possible attack he would receive as a result, but he would suffer through it. He would suffer thought anything at this point in time. He was strong enough for that.

But he was not strong enough to live without her.

He pounded on the door and waited as he suppressed a shiver that ran down his spine. The rain seemed to be falling harder now, and he didn't know if that was a sign or not. Regardless, here he was, and no amount of cold or rain was going to stop him.

He waited a few more minutes before he knocked again. He usually had to knock for quite a while before she actually answered him. But this time, the second she realized how late it really was, she probably would ignore him. But he continued, his fists pounding on the door slightly harder each time.

He was finally awarded when he heard the dead bolt turn slowly. His heart began to beat with more ferocity than before. He took deep breaths to calm himself, but to no avail. And when the door finally opened, he simply stood like an idiot.

She apparently had not been expecting him. Her previous sleep-deprived state was replaced with surprise and hint of anger. "I'm not training this early in the morning."

He didn't respond as he seemed to forget how to even form words on his tongue. But when she began to close the door, he reached out and stopped her.

"Please. You have to listen to me."

She didn't fight him, and she seemed less tense than she did seconds before. She crossed her arms and stepped to the side. "I'm not going to stand here and freeze. Let me get you a towel before you catch a cold."

This was going much better than he had expected. But he did not move as she disappeared into the shadows. She technically did not invite him inside, and had this been a normal situation, he would have done so anyway. But this was different. He had crossed too many boundaries on assumptions. That ended tonight.

When she reappeared, she frowned at him. "What are you doing, Neji? Get in here and shut the door!"

He did what she asked and once he was inside, she chucked the towel she retrieved at him. "Don't want you soaking the place," he heard her say. He smiled at her comment, knowing she could not see it, and attempted to dry himself off the best he could.

"Now," she began as she leaned on the wall across from him. "What couldn't wait until the next time I ran into you?"

He felt his heart stop in panic. She did not say until the morning like he had been expecting. Was she planning on avoiding him, then?

He didn't care. If he couldn't speak his mind before he left, he deserved to never see her again. He took a deep breath, hoping to keep his nervousness out of his voice. "I found out that you were telling the truth after all. Kiba apparently thought the conversation was about Hinata and not you."

She simply stared at him, her expression unreadable. "But you still don't believe me."

He shook his head and let his heart take over. "From the first day I met you, you have always thought highly of something. Tsunade, some new weapon, harnessing your strength to become better, even Lee, Gai, and Naruto. I didn't let it bother me at first, but after all the time we were spending together, I began to wonder what it was like to be the person you admired the most. And for a short time, I really thought I had obtained that position, and I had no intentions of giving that up. But then I realized what I was doing. You have every right to be angry with me, and I do not have the right to claim that title again, but please do not walk out of my life. Regardless of what you think of me, or what anyone else thinks, I have become dependent on you. I don't want to imagine my life without you. I can't imagine my life without you."

She gaped at him, her body standing up straight instead of leaning against the wall. She did not say or do anything, so while he had her full attention, he pressed on.

"I've been fighting for weeks with these unfamiliar emotions. I had no idea how to handle them. I thought addressing my state of affairs with you would create more problems, so I didn't say anything. But I could not contain them forever. I had every intention of telling you that day in the forest, but I did not know what to say. Then I began to misread your intentions, and everything began to fall apart."

She shifted her focus to the floor as she exhaled deeply. "You're an idiot."

He couldn't tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing. "So, will you be honest with me one more time?"

Her shoulders dropped in frustration. "I'm not in love with Naruto."

He bravely closed the distance between them, her eyes growing wide in surprise. He took each of her hands in his. "Will you be honest with me now?"

She appeared as if she was trying to read him through his eyes, but was failing miserably. She opened her mouth to respond, but she didn't say a word. He made the assumption she was distracted by his close proximity, which he hoped worked in his benefit.

"What kind of person do you want to be with?"

For a second, he thought he had pushed her a little too far too early. She seemed extremely uncomfortable. He was about to bring up some other topic when she suddenly chuckled, a faint blush forming on her cheeks.

"Would you believe me this time?"

His heart raced with anticipation. He would finally get the answer he had been waiting to hear for almost a month. "I promise. I wouldn't even care if you told me you wanted to be with Shino."

She laughed as she leaned into him. "But you would."

Well of course he would, but…she did not need to know that at the moment. "As long as he would make you happy."

"You would threaten him."

He smirked. "I would."

"It's a good thing I didn't fall for Shino, then. He can live another day."

She was avoiding his question, and it was nerve-wracking. She seemed to be in good spirits, which helped put his mind at ease. But he wouldn't know for sure until she said his name.

"Who did you fall for, then?"

She snuggled closer into him, and he slowly moved his arms around her. He just had to patiently wait for her answer.

"If you can't see that by now, then you really are an idiot, Neji."

But it wasn't going to work. He needed to hear her tell him she fell for him. He would not assume anymore. He held her at shoulder length and waited for her to look into his eyes before he ended the silence.

"I want to hear you say it."

And without breaking eye contact, she gave him her answer. "I fell for you, Neji Hyuuga."


I fought with this ending a lot, but seeing as I am almost done with this, I figured the drama needed to come to an end and confessions needed to be made known. I still thought it was too early, but in the next filler saga, they seem more at ease with each other, so...you know where I'm going.

I just hope I didn't butcher Hinata, because I don't like her, but she played an important part here. And what girl doesn't like gossip?

Thanks again for being awesome!