Lee and Tenten exchanged stories in so many unhurried words, and there was unbridled laughter lurking in her lips and in her eyes and in his silence and from a short distance behind them, Neji drank them all.
Just when dusk had fallen and she had already come to the sad conclusion that her birthday had been forgotten, Tenten suddenly found herself aghast at the sight of a white, unmarred box sitting quietly on her table, and knew immediately whom it was from.
He parried and dodged her attacks and she gritted her teeth, wishing with all her she had that she could, just this once, wipe that self-satisfied, quiet smirk right off his self-righteous face-
On odd thing, Neji thought, that she thought he would be convinced by her too-bright smile and conveniently forget the fact that she was bleeding from a nasty gash at the side of her neck; didn't she know he could see right through her facade without even trying?
He wasn't surprised to find that their charge had so easily chosen her as the one he trusted the most out of his three guards; she had always been warm and affable by nature, and her smile could do wonders-
She didn't even think; one moment her hand was curled around a spoon while folding the icing and the next, she'd dipped a finger into the sugary depths and marred his stubborn, perfectly soft lips with it - before putting that same finger into her mouth.
He didn't heed her halfhearted, tired attempts to shoo him away; wordlessly, he scooped her up from where she stood and began running towards their rendezvous point.
She'd always thought it unfair how the gods seemed to have combined beauty, masculinity and supreme intelligence into one haughty package, when everyone else (herself included) could have benefited from getting at least an iota of that blessing.
This was not how he'd thought the morning would go, with him stewing silently on the sidelines while Tenten straddled Lee due to some idiotic, unnecessary lesson their teacher wanted to impart on them.
Two things happened to her, when she'd learned what happened to him: first, she became aware of a hollow void that filled and contracted in her chest and a second later, a pain so blinding and real engulfed her, robbed her of all ability to think.
She was laughing, he thought unfairly, and gnashed his teeth at the thought that she found it funny that he had already proposed to her even before asking her out on a real date; he quieted her down bytelling her that dates would only prolong the inevitable, anyway.
Perhaps, Tenten thought, perhaps Lee was here on his own volition and that he was telling her that she should already forgive Neji and stop being unyouthful because he wanted to, not because someone currently barred from stepping foot in her household had forced him to.
He counted each deafening moment in his head; just as he'd reached sixty, a definite snore ripped through the stillness - just as he'd expected.
She was trembling, she thought distastefully, despite his presence being a definite solid beside her; she wondered if she'd be able to survive through a night of meeting each and every Hyuuga living inside the compound and why oh why was it necessary, at this day and age.
There were certain disadvantages to having eyes like his; her teasing smile was the last thing he saw before she tied a cloth around his head and told him to act like a blind man while she pretended to be the long-suffering wife of a prisoner of war whose eyes had just been gouged out.
She awoke to a dark and cold room and cursed; her dream had been very lovely and felt disturbingly real - wandering hands and probing tongues and salty skin and soft words and she buried her face in her hands and thought, no, it can't continue like this.
He dragged his mouth away from hers and breathed; he needed composure, needed control, but he'd went and found want and temptation in her instead and inside, he shook.
She meandered inside the empty house and found a room; her limbs groaning in exhaustion, she wandered in, half-asleep already, and she stumbled onto what seemed like a bed - and what seemed like a person on the bed and even before she could scream, a hand was already covering her mouth.
From the other side, he'd been a silent witness to her tears; there was little he could do now but wait for her, and anticipate the day he'd be able to hold her again.
She towered above him and her grin was feral and as brilliant as the kunai she hovered directly over the skin of his throat as she asked him, do you yield?
Again, she called out to him, and he formed his little ball of perfect defense as she took to the air, rising to different vantage points and trying her damnedest for one of her weapons to penetrate it.
She didn't know if she should call him an idiot or a hero for accepting the S-Rank mission their Hokage gave him; in the end, she called him neither and thought of ways on how she could convince him to bring her along instead.
He was washing his face when a flutter of movements made him look; suddenly, there she stood, her back to him, with nothing on her skin but the sun and her scars and he thought, when his brain could function again, that he'd never seen a more glorious woman.
Her teeth drew blood from her lip, but she pressed on - she pulled, and she heard a distinct pop sound before catching him when he swayed towards her, his brows slick with sweat and his eyes glassy from the pain of having his arm re-set.
#25 Yin Yang
She slept right on top of him and, as his arms enclosed her naked form, he could not think of a better place for her - and for him - to be.
Even after all this time, she would still feel that definite ache in her chest whenever she heard his name, whenever she was reminded of what was and what could have been, and hoped to heavens that he was happy wherever he was.
(he wasn't, but she didn't have to know that - not yet, anyway.)