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[Naruto] Masquerade, Neji/Naruto
naruto: nuh-uh
vibrantdreams
Title: Masquerade
Fandom: Naruto
Rating: PG-13ish, I suppose?
Word Count: 5673
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto in any way, shape or form.
Summary: Neji's latest mission has him dressing like a woman and playing Naruto's wife. Naruto plays his part a little too well and continues to call Neji his little wife even after the mission. Neji proceeds by reminding Naruto that he is not a woman. Neji/Naruto.
Notes: Written for Day 1 over at adventchallenge. Kind of late, but it took a while to finish. Currently unedited, but I’ll go back and fix the mistakes when I have time. The prompter was the wonderful fairyniamh. Thanks for the idea! The other prompts can be found here.

It was a quiet night. Nothing but the softly blowing breeze could be heard throughout the small cabin two lone figures resided in. One of those figures sat on the chair closely to the empty fireplace, teeth chattering and left hand pressed firmly against a still bleeding wound. The other was busy rifling through a bag, undeterred by the occasional loud curse and exclamation from his companion. He worked just as quietly as the night, no needless movements or wasted actions as he pulled bandages and antiseptic out of the first-aid he had finally found. His companion cast a wary eye to the bottle first and then turned away, hesitantly releasing the constricting hold on the wound when careful hands took over, cleaning and tending to it without asking any questions. It would have been unnecessary. They both know what had happened and they both knew this was hardly the least of their worries.

When the cotton-ball bathed in antiseptic pressed further into the cut than before, Naruto barely held back an "ouch" and settled for moodily glaring at the one taking care of him. It would seem his nurse wasn't too thrilled with him. To be expected, he supposed. Their mission was over now that they had been caught out. Thankfully they still had this cabin as a safe retreat, having checked beforehand to make sure it was as secluded as they had been told. It wouldn't have gone as badly as it had if they had just launched a quicker assault, but this mission had taken time, too much time, and it had led to the enemy getting the upper-hand. It was going to be hell getting out of their current situation without back-up. They would just have to wait it out and plan accordingly. Not that he liked that idea. Especially waiting it out with an ill-tempered Hyuuga, one that probably blamed him for their failure. It wasn't that he didn’t deserve it, but it was starting to drive him crazy.

"How long do you plan to stay upset?" Surprisingly it came out as a whisper, nothing like the earlier outbursts where he was cursing everything in sight. It was as if he was afraid to ask, which wasn't like the bold, energetic, undefeated, and very much an idiot Naruto. Maybe it was the atmosphere they were in, secluded and cold and completely cut off from the rest of the world. It didn't feel right to raise his voice somehow.

It was another long moment of silence before Neji even thought of replying, diligently giving his all to cleaning the deep wound that was already beginning to heal. With his head bowed, he unrolled the bandages that would soon cover the garish mess of skin and then quickly wrapped it, tired of the sight already. "What gave you the impression that I'm upset?" The bandage was tied a little too tightly, which might have been some kind of indication of how 'upset' he was, but Naruto refrained from pointing this out. It wouldn't do to further anger the only companion he had right now.

"Well, you're not talking." Now that Neji was finished tending to the wound he had insisted on treating, Naruto could freely move and the first thing he did was rub his hands together before bringing them up and breathing into them. "I'm cold. I don't know about you, but I'm lighting a fire." He would have stood and gone in search of kindling wood, but Neji had already grabbed him by the shoulder, no doubt intentionally pressing down on the injury. It sent a spike of pain down his entire right side and he winced, recoiling back into the chair and immediately grabbing his hurt arm.

"Stay put." Just two words, but they were colder than the air they were breathing. Naruto gulped and nodded his head in understanding. If that was what it would take to appease that simmering anger, then he would gladly listen for once.

Satisfied, Neji left him alone and strode towards the cabin's lone door, the exit. It was only when the door had shut behind the Hyuuga that Naruto allowed his vice-like grip on the injury to slip and fall away. Exhaustion set in, the strains from the earlier fight catching up with him, and he breathed out a tired sigh, not sure what to do. If he didn't move soon, he was going to fall asleep. What was Neji thinking anyway, giving him a ridiculous order to stay put? His eyes slid closed as he relaxed his breathing, adrenaline all but gone, and let himself enjoy a moment of peace. It wouldn't last long, after all. It never did.

--

Tsunade had a warped sense of humor, Naruto thought. That was the only reasonable explanation as to why he was looking at a dolled up Hyuuga Neji. His cheekbones had a splash of color to them now, making them more prominent and off-setting his pale skin. Lips were darkened with rouge and his long black hair had been pulled into a bun, held together by an oriental hair stick. The normally stoic face had been replaced, and this version could easily have been mistaken as a woman. It was clear this wasn't going to an easy mission and the number of reasons had gone up by one. Lacking the ability to keep certain thoughts to himself, Naruto couldn't help but let out a, "Wow." He had known his partner for the upcoming mission would be male and in disguise, but this was going above and beyond the limits of simple disguise. It was as if Neji was someone else entirely.

There was a small upturn of lips from the older boy, an unmistakable acknowledgement that the outburst had been heard. Not one to be embarrassed, Naruto grinned back and gave the other boy a thumbs up. "You're one hell of looker. So," he continued, turning back to Tsunade and addressing her, "this is my wife for the duration of mission, 'ttebayo? Where do I sign to make it a permanent arrangement?" There was a startled noise behind which made him glance back over his shoulder, offering another wide grin to Neji and the woman beside him. It had been Shizune who had gasped and she still had that surprised look about her so he spared her from where his real thoughts were headed. "Don't worry, I'm not going to do anything inappropriate to Ne-chan." He laughed a little at the way that sounded and out-right ignored the death glare he was getting from 'Ne-chan'. "By the way," he rubbed at the back of his neck, suddenly acting the part of a lost little sheep, "what am I supposed to call Ne-chan, anyway?"

"That's what we brought the two of you here for, to explain the details." Tsunade laced her fingers together on top of her desk and calmly leaned back in her chair, getting comfortable. This was going to take a while. "As you know, the mission consists of you two acting as a married couple and infiltration a certain individual's mansion as honored guests." The two nodded as one, already standing side by side and in sync as they listened to the mission perimeters. It helped that they had been together on missions before and knew what to expect from one another, but there was a bit more to it than that.

Tsunade smiled approvingly as she went on, "We have arranged two fake identities prior today and you will be able to go over the smaller details together after you leave." A folder was handed to each of them from Shizune. "Those contain everything you'll need to know and memorize before the start of the mission in a week's time. The names you will go by while outside of Konoha are listed there, for example, as well as mannerisms, speech patterns and - this one concerns you, Naruto - the way you will be required look. If you have a problem with anything written in those folders, you have seven days to ...." Naruto raised an eyebrow, surprised. Was the old hag willing to negotiate terms? "Well, let's just say you have seven days to get over it."

That seemed pretty final, so Naruto didn't hold back on his pout when he next spoke. "But baa-chan, how could you! What if I don't think Ne-chan's name is good enough for her? She's my wife! Don't I get a say in this?"

Her previous smile of approval was replaced by one of dangerous intent. "Naruto. Do not make Hyuuga feel any more uncomfortable than he already is. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal, dattebayo!" Naruto sing-songed at the same time as Neji claimed, "I am perfectly capable of handling myself, Hokage-sama."

Whether either of those statements were true would be put to the test soon enough. Tsunade accepted that and moved, going on to describe the mission further. There was no time to waste. Everything had to be properly planned, no detail overlooked. Two of her precious shinobi would be putting themselves in the lion's den, so to speak. They couldn't afford any errors.

--

"Are you as excited as me, Ne-chan?"

"Naruto," Neji started in warning. "Don't call me Ne-chan. My name is -"

"Yeah, yeah. I know, it's Natsumi-chan. Jeez, you're no fun, 'ttebayo." The once-blond-now-brunette frowned, crossed his arms, and blew a stubborn lock of floppy black hair out of his face. "It's not like anyone's going to figure it out, anyway, even if I do call you that. You are older than me. What's wrong with acknowledging that?"

"Are you doing this intentionally? We have less than three days to get use to our roles and you're making this unnecessarily difficult."

Naruto's frown deepened and he refused to give up on this. They were going to be on enemy soil for nearly two months. He wanted some kind of fall-back, something familiar to keep him sane while he was playing the part of someone else. "Then let me call you Onee-chan and this argument will be over with."

"You idiot, I'm not a -" Neji paused, realized what he was about to say, in what tone of voice he had said it, and slapped a hand over his carefully made-up face. "All right, fine. I get it. Moving on. We still need to practice being a 'couple', so let's go from there."

"Yes!" The dark-haired Naruto punched a fist in the air, grinning from ear to ear. "Thank you, Natsumi-chan! If we weren't already married, I'd be down on one knee."

Neji remained as he was, indifferent. He would let Naruto lead the direction of this particular exercise and go from there. They had to get comfortable with each other and fast and the best way to do that would to be allow himself to get caught up in Naruto's pace. "You know, that's not half bad. Propose."

The reaction was immediate and it was rather amusing. Bright blue eyes, the only part of himself Naruto was allowed to keep, had gone wide and he was making some sort of sputtering sound with what little saliva he had left in his mouth. Figuring he needed to explain himself before Naruto started convulsing on the spot, Neji pointed out, "It's easier to lie if we have truth to rely on. Propose and I'll have a story to tell that will, in a way, be the truth."

He could understand that, somewhat. Wasting no time, Naruto went down on one knee, taking one of Neji's hands in his own as he looked up into pale brown eyes. It wasn't as nice as the white, lavender-like shade they had originally been, as they had been in that day in the office when he had first seen Neji like this, but they were still pretty. Not a bad choice for contacts at all. He squeezed the hand in his, a reassuring smile on his lips as he spoke clearly, refusing to stumble. "Would you marry me, Natsumi-chan? I want to be together with you. Forever. Will you give me the chance to try?"

Silence. Glaring, irredeemable silence. Well, that wasn't nice. Where in their folders had it said that Natsumi-chan was a stick-in-the-mud Hyuuga? She was 'high society', sure, but this was a bit much. Too long of a wait, too obvious the answer would be 'no'. Then Neji surprised him by squeezing his hand back and giving him a tiny, shy smile that he had not once seen before. He could only stare, open-mouthed, at the way such a small change in expression could make Hyuuga Neji seem so much more ... approachable. Without thinking twice, Naruto stood and pulled the slighter body towards himself in some sort estranged version of a hug. "You're too cute, Ne-chan."

"Onee-chan to you," Neji stated coolly, back to apathy. "And I was acting, Naruto. Please refrain from hugging me needlessly."

"I was acting, too!" Naruto responded, indignant. "But if I had gone with what 'Hajime' wanted to do, then you would have been embarrassed."

"A kiss is hardly going to embarrass me, Hajime," drawled Neji, a teasing lilt to a higher tone of voice. "Shall we give it a try?"

Naruto was the one turning red in the end.

--

The mansion they were to infiltrate was a grandiose affair. It had the atmospheric quality of a castle and yet smaller, less cold, much more welcoming than the few stone castles that Naruto had been able to see in his short life. The torrents spun up high into the air on eccentric spirals and the roof was sloped, steep and discourteous to those who would try to walk on it. Naruto gave it a fleeting glance and then dismissed it as a minor set back. They would find other footholds for sneaking around.

Arriving a day early had also been part of the plan. They were to get into the master of the house's good graces, win him over, let him lower his guard. Then they would ask to extend their stay to after the Winter Masquerade. After stabling their horses, they were introduced to the Head of the house and permitted to join him for dinner, an extravagant event. There were quite a few more 'early' guests than they had expected, but it didn't matter. Another minor set back, possibly, but nothing they couldn't handle. It simply meant they had to work harder to get time to speak with the Head of the house, Takuma.

They did get their chance, during a night cap that Naruto had personally been invited to - without his wife. A little disconcerting to be with his partner on his first major infiltration, but Naruto didn't allow himself to think about it. He had to focus, give it his all. He refused to fail when Neji was counting him, waiting for him, giving him that look that said he had better be careful. He couldn't let Neji down. He wouldn't.

Perhaps that was where everything started going wrong.

"Your wife is quite lovely," Takuma said as if talking off the weather. Briefly, Naruto stiffened and then laughed to cover up the tenseness those words had caused. Was it natural for a husband to be so instinctively protective? No, he supposed not. He should be proud on her behalf to have such a compliment.

"She is, and something else when no one else is around, if you know what I mean." Naruto couldn't help but smirk, Neji's little lesson of 'good lies are based on truth' had definitely come in handy.

"I can only imagine." If Takuma sounded wistful or intrigued or anything of those things, Naruto hardly noticed. He was contemplating his drink, swirling it about, still unsure about whether to try the wine that had been offered or not. "It's not poisoned, Hajime-dono. I heard you were a war veteran, prone to paranoia, but I didn't know you were one to distrust a host's good-will."

"Ah, only one who has never stood on a battlefield would be so willing to trust what they can't see." The seriousness of the conversation drained away as soon as Naruto laughed and raised his glass high. "But I believe I will trust in your good-will, good sir." And he took a sip, maybe too big of a sip for he ended up coughing and spilling more than he had been able to drink. It seemed to go over well enough, though. Takuma was laughing as well.

If Naruto felt a bit of uneasy in the back of his mind, he passed it off as needlessly suspicion. They weren't here for Takuma, after all. It was his wife that was involved in the underworld and the circulation of a harmful drug. Takuma wasn't aware of any of that. He was a means to an end, nothing more.

--

The Winter Masquerade was an annual event in the Land of Iron, held during the time of year where the snow never ceased to fall. It was a celebration for the spirits of the dead and meant to ensure their safe passage from this world to the next, a tradition that had been able to withstand the test of time. Those who attended the event were made to wear masks, concealing their identities and allowing those same spirits of the dead one last night to partake in festivities before they passed on. The music was light and sweet, a beautiful melody for a beautiful night.

Naruto wished he could enjoy it more, but he had a job to do and that involved distracting Takuma. Neji would begin following Haruka tonight and the initial stages would be the most delicate. They had to learn the daily activities and the hidden ones as well. It would be better if Takuma didn't suspect anything.

It worked to Naruto's advantage as well, sticking to Takuma like that. For one, he got to see Neji when his partner stopped by to ask after Takuma's wife and that made the entire night worth it. The dress wasn't he had been forced to wear wasn't anything too fancy or too plain, but something just right and it suited Neji. The way it dipped a little in the front, in the shape of a v, the slightly exaggerated empty space where breasts would have gone had been carefully constructed so as not to give him away, and the gown also hung low to the grown, concealing what Naruto knew to be plain slippers underneath the dress. Neji had obstinately refused to wear 'girl shoes' and Naruto had been sure to tease him mercilessly about it. But it wasn't the dress alone that had caught Naruto's attention, it was the long, untied expanse of black hair that fell over and along exposed shoulders. The dress only cut off along the shoulders to bare skin a few inches and then returned to sleeves loose enough to fall over and not give away the abundance of muscles. It was a tasteful piece of work and Naruto vaguely wondered who had thought it up, these outfits Neji was wearing so easily nowadays. He was also envious of whoever the tailor had been. Just a little.

"Hajime-dono." Naruto started and looked away from his 'wife' quickly, giving an uncertain smile to the person who had called him: Takuma. "I'd like to introduce you to my wife." She wasn't as pretty as Neji, but she still had a dignified presence and he didn't find it too much of a stretch when he took her hand, giving the back of it a quick brush of the lips. She giggled a little and it did nothing for her, only deepening the wrinkles she had tried in vain to hide under too much make-up. This 'Haruka' woman was too fake, much too fake. Now, Neji ... He allowed his gaze to slip back to wife and grinned when Neji met his gaze head-on, aware that he had been watched this entire time too.

"It's my turn for introductions, is not? Please be kind to my wife, Haruka-san. This is Natsumi," he held out a hand for Neji to take, enjoying it maybe too much when Neji took it, "the love of my life and a woman of unparalleled intellect."

"Oh?" Haruka, at last, seemed interested in more than the men in front of her, unwavering gaze focused on 'Natsumi'. "A learned woman is hard to come by in our land. What is it you study, my dear?"

"Botany," Neji answered at once, lacing his fingers with Naruto almost reflexively. They had been practicing that for hours before they left, practicing until they both felt comfortable with the smallest of actions that would lead into a bigger picture. "I was interested the Medic Corp. that stemmed from the shinobi and wished to become a doctor, but alas." Naruto didn't think was necessary to be dramatic, but Neji was getting into his role, so who was he to stop him? "I only managed as far as a pharmaceutical company."

Haruka was enthralled now, having taken the bait, and it wasn't long before she had whisked Neji away for somewhere quieter to talk. Well, that was one hurdle down. That just left ....

"Would you like to retire for the night? I would mind company in my library parlor, if you so wish for a quieter place to talk." Huh, Takuma had read his mind. Naruto nodded and set his flute of champagne aside, allowing the older man to lead the way.

--

Thanks in part to Neji, they were allowed to stay for the rest of the month, getting closer and closer to the drug ring they would shut down permanently. However, it was not without its drawbacks. Most of the time, they were separated. Naruto was always stuck with Takuma and Neji was always entertaining the lady of the house as if he wasn't a woman himself at the moment. Maybe, just maybe, Naruto was jealous of how easy it was for the two of them talk, as if they were old friends, but he didn't allow it to distract him. Neji would be coming back to his room at night, anyway, ever the blissful married couple.

However, one night he didn't and that was the start of the domino effect that would result in the failure of their mission. Something they didn't see coming.

"Are you looking for your wife?"

Takuma sounded genuine in his concern, so Naruto answered him honestly. "Yes, she hasn't come back to our room yet."

"I saw her with Haruka just a moment ago. The two of them get along well. It's no doubt only a matter of time before she proposes a job transfer, just you wait."

"You sound happy about that," Naruto remarked, following Takuma into the library parlor without thinking much about it. It had become routine, normal even. A night cap before bed, a talk over the last Great War, and then a stumble to make it back to his room, drowsy enough to sleep as well as he ever could these days. Though it was noticeably easier when he was here in this mansion, a warm body beside him and a sense of calm and safety encompassing him. A momentary peace. No matter how deceptive the ruse, it was nice.

"Of course!" Takuma really did sound eager, almost thrilled beyond reasoning, at this idea. Naruto raised a hand to eyes, rubbing at them to clear his suddenly hazy vision. Maybe he was tired. It had been happening frequently the past few days. Neji had noticed the fatigue too, but hadn't said much more than to stay in the room at night. Ah, right, he should have stayed in the room. Waited for Neji to get back. Why had he left? "You don't look well, my friend. Are you worried about your wife?"

He would have nodded, but the uneasy feeling was back and it was staring him in the face the entire time. The alcohol. Alcohol never made him cough. Alcohol never had been this intoxicating before, not with Kyuubi residing within. Alochol wasn't like this at all. What was this? He swirled the liquor around in the glass like he had done that first night and a frown wrinkling brow. Even the color didn't seem right for the type of wine this was supposed to be. "Say, Takuma-sama. Why are you so happy at the thought of Natsumi-chan working for your wife?"

"Why?" Ah, Takuma was much too close for comfort. Naruto wasn't feeling well enough to put up with that. Once a hand gripped his chin, tilting his head up, and the glass of wine fell from his grasp, Naruto acted on auto-pilot, drawing a hidden kunai without much thought. His movement were too sluggish, though, and his wrist was caught and the blade thrown aside. "Ah, ah, ah. No fighting. You'll fetch quite a high price on the market. I believe Haruka and I stumbled over a most interesting pair."

Market? Price? Naruto felt his eyes go wide when understanding dawned. Slave trade. It wasn't only Haruka that was involved in the black market then. But why hadn't this information been reported? Where there a rat? Someone concealing information for this family? He didn't know, but he did know his head was full of cotton and it was getting harder to think the longer he looked at that smug expression Takuma was wearing. Damn, he had fucked up big time. It would take a while for Kyuubi to clear the drug out of his system and Neji ... was he okay?

There was a distant shout of, "Naruto!" He could definitely hear someone call his name. His real name. It took realizing who it was for Naruto to snap out of the stupor he had fallen into and reacted again out of instinctive, bringing a knee up and forcibly pushing the man that had pinned him in the chair away. He barely managed to pick up the kunai and block the sword aimed at his back. Takuma was faster than he looked, huh. Well, he wasn't one to be out-done speed. Except the drug messed up his timing.

A splatter of blood across his face alerted him to the fact he had properly stabbed where he had meant to stab - Takuma's stomach - but his arm was warm, sticky, and it felt too heavy to be a part of him. He collapsed backwards, his arms outstretched to cushion the fall, and he breathed out deeply, tossing the kunai aside while he collected himself.

"Don't sit there, you idiot!" Insistent hands were pulling him up and Naruto let his head lull further backwards, looking up.

"Ah, Ne-chan. I didn't have to worry after all."

"It's you I'm worried about. We have to get out of here. I subdued Haruka and left her out in the greenhouse, but something was strange about her. I think we were set-up. She seemed prepared for the attack and only allowed herself to be caught. I hurried here as fast as I could, but ...."

"S'all right, Ne-chan. I took care of it." His words were coming out slurred, but it did feel as if the effects of the drugs were waning. That was a good sign. "Let's rest. Then we'll leave."

"We can't," Neji interjected, voice urgent. Naruto would have been amazed to hear it if his mind had allowed him to focus properly. Unfortunately, it didn't, and he would have to wait until some other day to hear and see such worry again. "We have to leave, Naruto. These two aren't alone. And that man's not dead. Neither is Haruka. The plan was to take her alive, but ... the pirority right now is getting you out of here."

"The ... mission?" Naruto asked, draping an arm around Neji's shoulders after much prompting.

"Unimportant." With a bit of effort, Neji was capable of dragging Naruto out of the room and further away from this hell of a mansion. "You're heavier than you look."

"I feel heavy, yeah. My arm feels the heaviest, 'ttebayo."

If Naruto had considered any of what was happening, he would have realized Neji was trying his best to keep him awake. As it was, he could only bring himself to think wow, this is the longest he's ever talked to me. He snickered and mumbled out, "Remind me to get hurt more often. You're cute even when you worry, Ne-chan."

"... This isn't the time to be funny, Naruto."

--

"Naruto, wake up. Naruto!"

Blinking his eyes open, the first thing Naruto realized when he opened his eyes was that his back was in about as much pain as his arm now. Unpleasant as that was, he wasn't too unhappy about how close Neji's face was to his. He was even prettier up close. And it was a much better to look at than Takuma's had been. "I'm wake up, Neji. What's the panic about?"

The once tense face relaxed, but Neji remained close, looking him over. "Are you hurt anywhere else? I would have helped you fight if it hadn't been for the guards outside the library."

"I'm fine, Neji. Everything's fine now that the drug's worn off."

For a moment, Neji looked as if he had more to say, probably something about bloodless being no small matter, but he stopped, shook his head and then pulled back completely. Naruto didn't like that, but he wasn't feeling exactly up to complaining, not nearly as well as he had claimed to be. "If anything hurts, immediately let me know," instructed Neji, once more back to his indifferent and unapproachable ways. It hurt a little to know that for Neji that was how easy it was to slip back into old habits.

" ... It hurts." The supposedly indifferent Hyuuga stopped mid-way through tying up his hair. "My arm really hurts. I'm sorry I lied. Is that why you're mad?"

"Idiot." Neji was already digging through the bag again, this time in search of pain killers. "I already said I wasn't mad. Just ... stop pretending everything's all right."

"But it's going to be," Naruto insisted, always one to keep hope, regardless of the situation.

Before Neji went to fetch a glass of snow and let it melt by the fire, he turned back, considered Naruto quietly as he ever had, and then smiled, that same small smile that Naruto had wanted to see ever since the day of his 'proposal'. "I suppose I had better believe you. Or you'll do something stupid again."

"Man, you really are no fun! I was right, dattebayo."

"Oh? Were you planning something stupid already?"

"Maybe."

Curious, Neji asked what he knew Naruto wanted him to. "And? What was it?"

"When we get home and I'm feeling better, I'll show you. How's that sound, Ne-chan?"

Neji didn't ask anything further, but he did twitch slightly at the continued use of 'that' nickname.

--

"I have the loveliest wife around. I have the loveliest wife of around. Oh, I have the loveliest wife around, dattebayo~!"

If it had been anyone else but Hyuuga Neji hearing that, Naruto would have surely been dead. Fortunately for him, there was only Neji in the training area that Team Gai used and now Neji was regretting ever taking a break from repetition of the Kaiten. At least if he were spinning he wouldn't have hear such things. Not that Naruto himself was unwelcome, but the things he said ...

It seemed that after that particular mission, Naruto had grown attached to him and refused to call him anything but wife and Ne-chan whenever they were alone together. If they could just get rid of that aspect of their relationship, Neji would be satisfied with how things had gone. They had grown closer in that cabin, learning things about each other that they hadn't previously known, and the bond between them was stronger than ever. He hadn't been able to be that close with Naruto when they had just been rookies, but missions together had gradually changed that. He was comfortable with Naruto now and he was certain that Naruto felt the same after everything they had shared. There was only one matter they had to concern themselves with: Naruto still thought they were married.

He wasn't sure why that thought warmed him inside out, but it couldn't mean nothing good since he was starting to like that feeling. And if he had a say in the matter, then they were definitely not married. Who could put up with Naruto twenty-four seven? The idea of his uncle getting wind of this and being horrified was worth it to consider, though. He didn't hate the Head Family anymore, but that didn't stop him from imagining ways to shock them into an early grave. And if he happened to defy fate in the process, double bonus.

However, right now he couldn't afford such thoughts. Today he would convince Naruto that they weren't married. "Naruto. How many times do I have to explain that after we got back to Konoha, we were no longer partners of that sort?"

"As many times as you like, my oblivious fiancé."

"I thought we were married."

"Don't sound so hurt, 'ttebayo! We will be, soon. We just need to seal the deal with a kiss, Ne-chan."

That wasn't how Neji imagined today's practice going. Then again, Naruto's lips were warm against his and after the bitter cold endured in the Land of Iron, it was enough to make him want it to last a lot longer than it did. It was hardly a kiss either. If Naruto wanted to kiss him again, it would have to be after he had taught him to do it properly. He wasn't a girl, after all. It seemed he needed to remind Naruto of that.

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Good action, and each of the couple handled believably. Both their feelings and reactions are done very well.

Thank you! I'm glad that the characterization was all right. It's been a while since I've wrote anything, let alone anything for this fandom.

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