a/n: I started this story a couple of years ago but abandoned it after being more than three-quarters of the way through – a decision I've been regretting ever since even though I didn't take it lightly. Many readers have contacted me about Precious Things since and I've never really stopped feeling guilty about it … so, I eventually decided to resurrect this one ^^ I am definitely going to try to finish it this time (I always knew exactly what had to happen I just didn't have any enthusiasm left for it). That being said, please bear in mind that I've started a few other projects that will be taking precedence over PT. However, I have around 14 chapters already written, they just need editing, so updates for this one shouldn't be too long in coming.
Dedication: To all those reviewers who showed such wonderful support and requested a resurrection of Precious Things. I hope that you'll enjoy the revised (and hopefully, eventually, finished) product!
Warnings: Very slight smuttiness
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or the characters used in this story
Tenten sighed as she twirled a kunai idly from hand to hand. This had to be the most boring mission she'd ever been assigned to in her entire time as an active shinobi. She glanced across the fire and her gaze collided with Neji's stern one. She quickly looked away, slipping her kunai into its hidden pouch with barely perceptible movements.
How much longer? She wondered if it was possible to really die from boredom. They'd been hired to escort a young couple to their new home –the two had married without their parents' consent and were sure that they would be attacked and forcibly separated. How this translated into an A-rank mission Tenten had no idea, but she and Neji had been available, and Tsunade-sama had obviously felt that since they were being paid for an A-rank mission – no matter how ridiculous –an experienced jounin was required. Enter Neji. He'd chosen her for his partner, but mostly Tenten suspected Tsunade had allowed him to choose another jounin to accompany him to save Neji from losing his mind.
Supposedly the mission would end as soon as the two they were escorting were in their new home with their marriage safely consummated – they apparently thought that would be enough to deter their parents. Tenten snorted indelicately, it really was ridiculous – it wasn't even properly a D-rank mission – the only reason she could think of for Tsunade to have accepted it was that the amount of money being offered was too much to turn down. There couldn't be any other reason she'd agree to treat this farce as an A-rank mission.
She shot another glance at Neji – so far she'd wasted two weeks of her life on this lunacy – and she vowed that one day she would get him back for this. Not only did they have quite a distance to travel – and in the winter – but they also had to put up with two hormonal, spoilt, teenaged newly-weds.
At least the end was finally in sight – they'd reached the couple's home earlier in the day. Tenten shivered slightly, and moved closer to the fire. For the sake of their sanity, Neji and Tenten had come to a silent agreement to set up a vigil outside the small cottage for the night – but the distance didn't do much to stifle the moans of pleasure that drifted through the otherwise quiet night.
"Vocal much?" Tenten muttered, a slight blush on her cheeks, when a particularly loud moan split the night air.
Across from her Neji replied, "Don't begrudge our clients their … er … pleasure, Tenten. It means we finally get to leave."
She inclined her head slightly; that was entirely true, and the only bright spot besides, but Tenten couldn't help staring at Neji in amazement. He looked completely at ease, unfazed, and not in the least embarrassed. How is he doing that? She couldn't help but wonder at how Neji didn't even show the slightest reaction – no matter what screams or sounds rent the night – and there had been a few screamed phrases that had had Tenten blushing to the roots of her hair.
"Doesn't it bother you?" she finally voiced her curiosity, and moved to his side of the fire, so they could talk easily. It sounded to her as if the marriage was well and truly consummated and therefore she didn't think she needed to sit like a silent sentinel any longer.
"Doesn't what bother me?" Neji asked, glancing from her to the house where the screams seemed to be reaching their peak, and shrugged slightly, as if he, too, didn't think it necessary to remain on guard any more.
Tenten jerked her head at the cottage, "That. Not to mention I've seen a few things on this journey that I could've lived without. Doesn't it embarrass you even a little? It's like listening to a porn soundtrack out here!"
Neji smirked slightly, "The trick is to focus on something else, Tenten. For example, I run through the various stances of the Jyuuken fighting style, instead of paying them actual attention," he turned his head slightly to fix her with a curious gaze in return, "Why does it bother you so much?"
Tenten shook her head in agitation, "It just does – I guess I'm just not an exhibitionist and I don't particularly appreciate that quality in other people." She shifted uncomfortably when Neji's scrutiny didn't let up – if anything his gaze intensified. She turned her head away, avoiding his piercing eyes, and pretended to stare at the stars instead. After a moment of, blessed, silence (maybe the other two were finally done) she heard Neji shifting, and her head jerked back around when she felt his warm breath on the soft skin just behind her ear, and her eyes widened.
Neji was hovering over her, his eyes glinting silver in the firelight, "Or maybe it's just that after two weeks of being subjected to a free show, you're so irritable because you're frustrated," he whispered into her ear before his tongue flicked out to taste the soft skin of her neck.
Involuntarily, Tenten's eyes slid closed, and she felt her body coming alive from that one small touch. Then she gathered herself firmly and pushed Neji back. Glaring up at him, she said, "I thought we agreed that mixing business and pleasure was a bad idea?"
He inclined his head slightly, but moved forward, crawling over her, until she had no choice but to lie back on the sleeping bag he'd spread on the ground. "We did – but this particular mission has ended, if you ask me, and I've also been subjected to a free show for the last fortnight, so I think I'll risk our erstwhile clients finding us in a compromising situation – not that that's likely – I doubt they'll be surfacing any time soon."
As if on cue, the moans started back up again, and Neji groaned as he dropped down next to Tenten, an arm over his eyes, "Then again, I don't particularly relish the idea of that for background music."
Tenten laughed and rolled over onto her side, propping her head on her hand, "No," she agreed, leaning over to press a light kiss to the underside of his jaw.
Neji groaned again, and then, with a long-suffering sigh, he drew the blanket over both of them, and pulled Tenten securely into his arms, allowing her to use his shoulder as a pillow. "Sleep, Tenten. Maybe morning will come quicker that way."
She stifled her smile in his shoulder and cuddled closer – more than anything she'd missed the closeness of his body in the night. Two weeks of sleeping across from a campfire – so close and yet so far – had been sheer torture.
She yawned and, just before sleep claimed her, she whispered, "Neji, I can't wait either." She sensed his smile, and closed her eyes contentedly when he stroked softly over her hair.
"Soon – for now, sleep."
By the time the young couple stuck their heads around the front door the next morning, Tenten was ready to beat both of them to a pulp. They'd been packed and ready to go for hours now, but they'd had to wait for their clients to officially see them off before the mission could be considered completed. Thankfully Neji was as composed as ever and she left the goodbyes and the thank you's to him.
When they finally rounded the bend in the road that led up to the cottage, and entered the town proper, Tenten breathed a sigh of relief. Skipping slightly ahead, she turned around and walked backward in front of Neji, "So, now what, oh great leader?"
Neji frowned at her teasing but couldn't hide the slight smile tugging at the corners of his mouth and Tenten flashed him a happy grin in return.
"What do you mean?" he asked, "We go home, of course."
She placed a hand on his chest, effectively causing him to come to a halt, and smiled mischievously up at him, "But don't you think we deserve a mini-vacation first? There's a hot springs resort just outside of the town – remember? We passed it on our way in…" she let her words trail away suggestively, staring up at him through lowered lashes.
He didn't reply but grabbed her hand and started off down the road at a brisk pace, pulling Tenten along behind him. She giggled softly into her hand – clearly he liked the idea as much as she did.
They barely made it into their room before Neji pushed Tenten up against the door, his mouth slanting over hers in kiss after desperate kiss, his hands pulling frantically at her clothes. Tenten sighed into his mouth blissfully as she arched her body against his and wound her arms around his neck, pressing as close to him as she could. He growled low in his throat, his hands trailing possessively down her back, briefly cupping her rear before he lifted her and Tenten wound her legs around his waist. He turned and walked to the bed, laying her down gently before pulling his shirt over his head. Apparently that was all he had the patience for because, in the next instant, he was hovering over her again and devouring her mouth like a starving man suddenly presented with a five course banquet.
Tenten wasn't quite sure when or how their clothes were removed – she was too focused on the sensations Neji's insistent hands were creating in her body – but suddenly she was burning up. She felt shivery, achy … needy. As if he'd read her mind, as if he knew she'd reached the absolute end of what she could endure, Neji entered her in one swift thrust. Their mingled groans rang through the room, but then Neji was moving, and Tenten forgot about anything but the tide of pleasure racing to engulf her.
Much later, Tenten lay quietly, watching a sleeping Neji, their limbs still entwined, and the sheets twisted around their bodies. She reached over and smoothed a strand of long hair away from his forehead, her fingers tracing lightly over the marks of the curse seal.
She trailed her fingers lower, lightly brushing over his nose, his cheekbones, before tracing the shape of his full mouth. The first time he'd kissed her they'd been fourteen years old. She could still recall the exact sensation of mingled shock and pleasure, as electricity raced between them. Throughout the rest of that night she'd reflected on how lucky she was – had hugged the knowledge that Neji wanted her to herself like a teddy bear.
The next morning he'd been gone – chasing after Sasuke. And he'd returned more dead than alive. Tenten couldn't suppress the slight shiver as she remembered the dark hours that she and Hiashi-sama had spent outside the operating theatre, waiting to hear if Neji would live. But he'd pulled through, and as soon as he'd left the hospital, he'd made her a promise: that he'd always come back to her, if she would have him.
Even now, years later, Tenten still felt weak in the knees when she recalled that heartfelt, if somewhat awkward, conversation. She'd never known Neji had such depth of feeling locked behind his stoic gaze, but, through the years, she'd learned many things about him, had seen many different sides to him, and, she still couldn't help but revel in the knowledge that she was the only one who saw the softer, more human - and less Hyuuga - side of him. Her hand trailed down the strong column of his throat, over his chest, to finally trace patterns on the lines formed by his abdominal muscles.
The first time he'd made love to her, they'd been sixteen, and so in love that Tenten sometimes thought she would die from the sheer strength of feeling. They'd returned from the emotionally and physically draining mission to Suna with Team Kakashi, and, she didn't know how or why, but something had changed between them on that mission. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that they'd nearly died when facing that shark-like Akatsuki member before Neji had managed to break out of the water prison, but, whatever it had been, it had brought them closer than before. The deeper emotional bond had flowed naturally into a deeper physical bond, and since then, they never spent the night apart unless they were on missions, together or separately.
It continually amazed Tenten how few people picked up on the fact that she and Neji were involved – and had been for the last six years. Early on they'd decided that they couldn't afford distractions while on missions and so they'd agreed to treat each other simply as teammates when sent out of the village, but that aside, they'd never gone to any trouble to try and hide their relationship. Hiashi knew, of course, as did Lee and Gai-sensei, but they'd all accepted it wordlessly, as if it hadn't been any great surprise and Tenten had never felt the need to examine their thoughts on the topic.
She shook her head to get rid of the past, and snuggled closer to Neji's warm body, allowing sleep to claim her too. She never slept well unless Neji was beside her, and she had two weeks' worth of disturbed nights to make up for.
Neji woke up late in the afternoon to find Tenten draped over him, the covers pushed down to her knees. With amusement he noted that he'd managed to hang on to his side of the comforter – it was still pulled up around his waist. He quickly threw it over Tenten too – it never failed to make him smile: in the winter she was always so cold that she would sleep practically on top of him, but the body heat inevitably warmed her too much and then she would kick the covers off. Meaning that he'd woken up more times than he cared to count with Tenten literally on top of him, his body numb from supporting her motionless weight for so long without stirring. He smiled as he shifted slightly to lay Tenten's head on the pillow, letting her body slide off of him to rest on the mattress. It also still amazed him that he didn't mind – he somehow found it endearing.
Slowly he shook his head. Sometimes he thought that, when his hormones had kicked in at fourteen and he'd kissed Tenten for the first time, he must've traded his brain cells for his libido. Almost thoughtfully he allowed his hands to trail over her naked skin beneath the covers, satisfaction evident in his smirk when she responded, unconsciously arching her back to allow him better access to the soft curves of her upper body. Neji sighed, truth be told, he'd sacrifice those brain cells any day of the week if it meant he could be with Tenten like this.
He regretfully drew his hands from her body and leaned forward to kiss her forehead, her eyelids softly, until she sleepily glared up at him. "If we want to use the hot springs we should get going," he whispered, pressing a kiss to her lips until he felt her mouth curve in a smile.
The rest of the evening was spent in companionable near silence – they knew each other so well by now that they communicated perfectly without words. They each had a long soak in the hot springs before enjoying a leisurely dinner in front of a roaring fire.
At last they returned to their still unmade bed, and Neji couldn't help but think that fate had repaid him ten-fold for the pain of his early childhood when it had given him Tenten, as he lost himself again and again in the soft warmth of her body.
The return journey was completed in five days, but nonetheless Tenten was very glad to enter Konoha's gates again – sleeping on the hard ground in the winter was not her idea of a good time. They headed directly for the Hokage's office, intent on giving their mission reports so that they could go home.
Tsunade heard their reports – given in varying tones of outrage and accusation on Tenten's part– with a hidden smile before she sent them away, saying that a written report from each of them had to be on her desk by the next morning. She couldn't contain the chuckle when she imagined the kind of report she would be getting from Tenten – hell, she had to do what she could to wring some enjoyment out of the tedious paperwork involved in being Hokage.
Neji and Tenten had barely left the office before a young genin boy ran up to Neji, panting slightly. His eyes proclaimed him a Hyuuga and Tenten felt her heart sink into her shoes – this had to be a summons from his uncle.
Sure enough the boy bowed slightly and said, "Neji-san, Hiashi-sama has requested that you attend him urgently as soon as you are at leisure."
Neji nodded, "I will come right away. Run ahead and tell Hiashi-sama." The boy ran off, and Neji turned to Tenten grimacing apologetically.
She waved a hand, "Go, I'll see you later."
Neji squeezed her hand briefly – he had ever been a private person who didn't relish public displays of affection – and disappeared in a puff of smoke. Tenten stared at the spot he'd been in for a few moments longer before she sighed and left in the same way.
Hours later Tenten jumped in shock when the front door of her apartment flew open to hit the wall with a bang. She'd been reading on the couch, and had never even heard Neji's key in the lock, but one look at his face assured her that the meeting with Hiashi had not been to his liking.
She laid the book aside while Neji locked the door again – officially he still resided in the Hyuuga compound – but for all intents and purposes he shared her apartment, and it was here that he referred to when he spoke of "home".
"Hi," she said hesitantly.
"Hn." Neji grunted in reply, slamming his way into the bathroom.
Tenten sighed when she heard the water running – he was obviously taking a shower, but she was damned curious now and decided to brave his foul mood.
She entered the bathroom softly, and sat down on the edge of the bathtub, staring at Neji's silhouette behind the foggy glass of the shower. "So, what did Hiashi-sama want?" she asked loudly, over the sound of the running water. Neji ignored her. She decided that she really wanted to know, and slowly pulled the old sweatshirt she'd been wearing over her head before shimmying out of the matching pants.
Wearing only her underwear she walked forward and opened the shower door, and quickly slipped inside. Neji turned to glare at her, but she returned his gaze innocently and he went back to ignoring her. Tenten reached for the shampoo and began to work the lather into Neji's hair – it never failed to calm him.
After a long moment Neji sighed and drew her into his arms, resting his chin on top of her head, "He wanted to discuss my "future" and to ask why I haven't been inducted into ANBU yet. He wasn't happy when I told him I hadn't joined yet because I haven't applied. That led to a few choice phrases about how I was wasting my life and my talent and shaming the proud name of the Hyuuga. Happy now?"
Tenten stayed silent as she turned him around and began to rinse his hair under the spray, softly massaging his scalp. Neji closed his eyes and the lines of tension around his eyes began to fade, and Tenten moved until she was standing in front of him again.
She began kissing her way down his chest, "Shall I kiss it better?" she murmured against his wet skin, sinking to her knees and letting her mouth move over his stomach. Neji's body shook beneath her touch and he leaned back against the shower wall, trembling hands stroking over her hair before he tangled his fingers in the long wet locks.
"Please do," he muttered closing his eyes, and forgetting all about his uncle as he focused on Tenten's mouth and her tongue, and what she was doing with them.
The next few weeks passed peaceably enough – it seemed Tsunade had been feeling generous in the aftermath of that excuse for a mission she'd sent them on – and both Neji and Tenten were only assigned one-day missions, which meant that they actually got to spend some time together every evening.
Tenten was ecstatic and yet suspicious – no way was this going to last and she had the sinking feeling that she didn't want to be around when their normal lives finally resumed with the inevitable bang. She had no idea why, but for the past few days she'd been feeling … off. Not sick, just not … right. As if she was getting sick, only it never seemed to come to a head.
She rolled out of bed, feeling thick and fuzzy and she was thankful that Tsunade hadn't assigned her any missions that day. She felt sort of drained, as if it was too much effort to even lift her arms. As soon as she was upright the world began tilting crazily as the nausea rose in her throat and Tenten barely made it to the bathroom in time.
When Neji returned home at lunch time he found Tenten lying on the bathroom floor, next to the toilet still looking faintly green around the gills. "What's wrong?" he asked in alarm, dropping down beside her to stroke sweaty bangs off her forehead.
"Must've eaten something funny," she whispered, smiling weakly.
Neji frowned, if it had been something she ate, then why wasn't he ill, too? They'd been sharing all their meals, and he didn't seem to be adversely affected. No, he feared it was more serious than that, the last few days Tenten had been looking rather listless, and she hadn't been sleeping well: tossing and turning, muttering in her sleep, and more than once, he'd held her through the throws of a nightmare that she could not recall the next day.
He placed a cool hand on her forehead but she didn't seem to be running a fever so he quickly headed for the sink and wetted a washcloth, for her to wash her face with. He left her briefly to make a cup of weak tea, and after she'd forced the tea and a piece of dry toast down, he was finally satisfied, and even Tenten had to admit that she felt better.
Neji helped her back to bed, and hovered over her for the rest of the day, no matter how often she insisted that she felt much better and that she was sure it was only one of those twenty-four hour bugs. He couldn't shake the concern – something was wrong with Tenten, he was sure of it.
a/n: Only minor changes made to this first chapter but let me know if you're interested in chapter 2 ^^