“I’m not even sure Neji likes girls, guys. Stop!” Tenten threw a grape at Kiba and Naruto as they teased her about being ‘completely entirely in love’ with Neji. Which she absolutely was not , thank you very much.
“Well,” Kiba managed through his snickers, “No one would fight you on that.”
“No matter if he enjoys men or women’s company, Neji certainly likes you Tenten!” Lee contributed with his award-winning grin and Tenten sunk even further into her chair.
“Neji couldn’t get a date if he tried,” Shikamaru added, as he took a strawberry from Choji’s plate.
“How’s landing one with Temari goin’ Shika?” Naruto could never help himself from instigating a little. Also since when had he become so protective of Neji?
“Shut up,” Shikamaru’s eyes glanced over to his left at a reading Sasuke. “You’re also doing awesome at asking Sa-“
Naruto launched himself at Shikamaru because that private, damn it!
Tenten held her head in her hands. She was not getting a date, ever.
Neji had considered his feelings for Tenten before, of course. He wasn’t completely blind to his emotions. Contrary to popular belief, he was actually quite in tune with them. How else was he supposed to keep them in check if he didn’t even know what he was feeling in the first place? But he hadn’t known what to do with this?
It’s like how he felt when he looked at Sakura, or, god forbid, Ino . They were attractive women, yes. But, Sakura was always angry about something and that volatile attitude was toxic to his newfound inner peace. And Ino, he shuddered at the thought, she was completely mental. They had interacted when they were younger and she had tried to stab him with a stick once because he questioned something he said.
Tenten was different. She… didn’t freak out all the time. She was actually funny. And when she was using her weapons, he got this stupid feeling in the bottom of his stomach.
The most baffling thing about it all is that he somehow ended up confiding this emotion to Kiba, of all people.
“That’s called love.” Neji’s brow furrowed.
“I’m in love with Tenten.”
“Well not in love with her, but you at least like her, you know? Want to take her out? Maybe kiss her or somethin’?”
Neji ran his hand over his face, which seemed way warmer than normal.
“I guess dinner would be nice.”
“That’s the spirit!”
“But I can’t just ask her .”
“Well of course not. That would be too simple, and doesn’t your woman deserve better?”
“She’s not my woman.”
Kiba waved him off.
“Yeah, yeah. Girl you like, future date, whatever you want to call her. She deserves better than just a question.”
Neji nodded slowly. That made sense, he supposed.
Kiba had thrust him off to buy flowers because “bitches love flowers”, though the thought of calling Tenten his bitch made him mighty uncomfortable. But, also her being…his girlfriend... That thought was… equally as uncomfortable, but in a completely different manner.
Neji walked around and picked up several roses because from he remembered from his classes in his formative years - women enjoyed those. Though, he couldn’t shake the seemingly expectant gaze from the counter. And the humming. Ino was humming in his direction.
He raised his brow at her as he placed six roses on the counter. She was unfazed as she practically danced, ringing him up.
“Who are these for, Neji?” Ino was practically singing as she spoke.
“No one.” Neji said, all too quickly and Ino chuckled waving him off and leaning forward on the counter.
“Well, tell her I said hello.”
Neji practically resisted his urge to huff as he exited to store. He tucked his hair behind his ears because for some reason they were dreadfully warm. Tenten was supposed to be heading out according to Kiba, so he’d run into a few blocks down.
The more he thought about it, the weirder it was that he was ‘running into her’… with flowers. Shouldn’t he have made plans with her first? He didn’t exactly carry around flowers regularly. This was stupid. Then again, he had found the entire dating concept ridiculous just two days ago.
He glanced up and there she was. And she was… also carrying flowers? Neji coughed and nodded, trying to greet her. How did he usually greet her? Did he usually say hello? Or did he usually nod? Why hadn’t he thought to notice that before?
“Are you,” she gestured down to the flowers, and Neji felt his heartrate jump. “Going to the cemetery as well?”
Neji nodded. And also felt about as bright as that dog idiot because no, he was absolutely not on his way to the cemetery. But he couldn’t talk and tell her that and now he was on his way to the cemetery as she talked about her day.
“Are you still on for training tonight?”
He snapped out of his thoughts and felt himself smile. She was smiling, how could he not?
“Of course. Field Seven?”
“Sounds good to me.”
Neji looked up at the gate to the cemetery they were standing under. So, they were… here.
“I’ll give you your privacy.”
Tenten’s face turned into the warm smile and he felt warmth of his own spread through his chest. And then she placed a hand on his arm and the warmth made its way to his fingertips, buzzing and swirling.
“You’re always so considerate. See you tonight.”
With a curt nod, and something resembling a polite smile, he nodded and walked toward his father’s. He sighed down at the gravestone as he placed his failed roses on them. They were inappropriate at best and down-right insulting at worst. He really hoped his father understood that he was excellent at most things, but wooing a woman was not something he’d exactly trained in.
When Neji had the audacity to question Shino’s involvement on the matter because the hell had he, of all people, had experience capturing a woman’s heart? – he was met with a stern gaze.
“I have experience in things you could never dream of, Neji.”
With the ominous buzzing in the background, Neji figured questioning it would be a poor decision considering he’d like to be intact for his training this evening.
“You have to impress her.”
“I already do.”
Few things could make Neji doubt himself, but the deadpan he received from Shino certainly caused his ego to deflate, if only a little.
“Fine. What things impress women?”
“What do she like?”
Neji frowned. What was up with him responding to questions with questions?
“Weapons and dumplings.”
Shino seemed to be lost in thought for a moment and Neji closed his eyes as he leaned against the side of building. This entire thing was ridiculous. Why did he have to do – put on a damn show for her? This entire dating concept was absurd.
“Make her dumplings. Show her you are able to navigate the kitchen.”
“I do not plan on cooking dumplings anytime soon. I don’t even particularly enjoy them.”
Yet, he ended up in Sakura’s kitchen. Lee insisted she made the ‘absolute best’ food.
The last hour had been stressful to say the least. Sakura had shoved him out of the way no less than fourteen times and was playing music so loud it was not like he could hear what she was saying.
How was he supposed to cook without instructions? Did she expected him to read her mind?
He ended up shooed into her living room and told to make himself useful by dusting. He had opted for meditating. Like hell he was dusting her living room. His focus was broken by her thrusting a tupperware into his arms.
“Here you go, and remember, just be yourself, Neji.”
He was practically shoved out the door and with a pat on his back. Neji sighed and paced home to change for training considering he was covered in flour.
Tenten took the container with squinted eyes.
“What is it?”
And her eyes lit up. Neji was pretty sure his heart flew into his throat.
“My favorite! I didn’t know you cooked!” Tenten swung back and forth, grinning.
“I don’t.” Neji mentally chided himself at the curt tone, but how was he supposed to talk with his heart inside of his throat. He coughed.
“Sakura make them you.”
Tenten scrunched her brows and scratched the back of her head.
“Oh, well, that was nice of her, I guess.”
Neji nodded – words were hard.
“Heh, well are we gonna get training or what!” Tenten placed the container down and dashed across the field and Neji sighed.
He had screwed up. He wasn’t sure where, but he had a good feeling this as not how this was supposed to go.
Kiba had called an emergency meeting. Both food and flowers had failed. Choji and Ino were mortified because how could both go so wrong.
“Well if anyone could manage it, it’s you ,” Shikamaru sighed.
“I don’t see you courting anyone.”
Shikamaru leaned forward on his knees.
“I’m busy .”
Sakura flicked him in the ear.
“Yeah, busy cloud watching and avoiding your reports. Tsunade is really over –“
“Guys, guys! We need to figure out a plan,” Naruto said in his grand attempt to redirect the room.
Neji continued to lean against a tree just close enough to seem present as he stared into the distance. This was ridiculous and dumb.
“I don’t need a plan to ask her out on a date.”
“Then why haven’t you done it yet?” Sasuke glanced up at him with that damn smug expression of his. When had Sasuke decided this was worth his effort? The damn traitor.
“It has to be perfect, Neji. Allow us to help!” Lee cheered and Neji went back to closing his eyes and leaning against the tree. This was ridiculous.
Neji handed Hinata a water bottle as they finished trainng together.
“Are you excited for tonight, Neji?”
Neji frowned and stared the rocks beneath his feet. Tonight was when the big plan was going to take place. He and Tenten were going to run into each and he was going to ask her out complete with sparklers and thrown flower petals. It felt wrong.
Hinata rested a hand on his knee and he jerked up and furrowed his brow. Her hand recoiled and she began to twist her fingers.
“You know, I not sure Tenten would like all that stuff. Do you think she will?”
Neji frowned. He hadn’t considered that she wouldn’t like it. Things like that are what women liked after all, well according to everyone else anyway.
“I don’t know.”
Hinata’s mouth twisted and her gaze dropped to her feet.
“Well, I think you should do something you know she will like.”
It was like a freight train had hit him. He knew what to do, he bolted up so fast, he scared himself.
“I – ah, thank you Lady Hinata.”
He attempted to walk briskly, and definitely not scramble because Neji Hyuga do not scramble, to Tenten’s home.
Neji felt immediate regret the second he rapped on the door.
Even more regret when it swung open and Tenten stood there beaming at her.
“Oh hey! What brings you here?”
“I – uh –“ Neji coughed and took the slightest breaths. “I would like to take you to dinner.”
Tenten took a step back and blinked a few times.
“Take me to dinner? Like a – you mean – a..”
Neji nodded quickly attempted to not look away.
“A date. Yes,” he felt a smile form on his lips at the way her face reddened and her eyes widened. “A date.”
“Well I would have to – I’m not exactly,” Tenten gestured wildly at her outfit. “Now?”
Neji leaned against her door frame. “Tonight?”
She seemed to finally relax a bit, biting her lip before smiling.
“I’d like that.”