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Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Author: MakeYouSmile


Hyuuga Neji hesitatingly knocked on his former teammate's front door. Sighing, he examined his surroundings as he awaited a greeting.

The neighborhood was somewhat hidden deep within the inner cities of Konoha, and thus there was little to no traffic on the stone roads. Rolling hills, trees, and other vegetation were everywhere, which put the nineteen-year-old at ease. He didn't want to have to picture his friend in a rough environment; it was too hard for his mind and heart.

The house was small and cozy, with flowers lining the perimeter. On the cement porch that he was standing on, a small welcome mat was placed in front of the door. He made sure not to step on it; afraid he might tousle it and rip away at its warmth. He was becoming anxious as he stared at that mat, placing his feet everywhere around it, but never touching it. He tried to keep his feet still, and instead his hands began to sweat. Cursing, he shoved them into his pockets and inhaled.

How long did it take for her to open a damn door?

"Ah, sorry. Were you waiting long?" Neji looked up at Tenten with a frown before stepping inside, she moving aside to let him in.

"No." She smiled before closing the door behind him, and he couldn't help but notice her appearance. Her hair, which was normally done in tight buns, was loosely braided. As usual, her face was free of makeup, but noticed sheerness was in her lips. She had shed her usual outfit and replaced it with a slim tank top and cargo pants.

"Sorry for the short notice, but I just thought it was important." Tenten began, not noticing his analytical stare. She moved into the kitchen, Neji following, and placed her hands atop a cardboard box that was poised on the kitchen counter. "You left some...Personal items behind." She said, choosing the rights words as she pushed the box over to where he stood on the opposite side of her. "I just thought you might want them before you...You know, leave."

Neji stared at the box before opening it, only for his eyes widen a fraction. He hadn't realized how many pictures he had accumulated over the years, and he took one out in awe. This one was framed, and it was of his and Tenten's old team; Team Gai. He stared at it, recognizing the face of Rock Lee, another former teammate, and the three's sensei, Matio Gai. Neji felt the ghost of a smile penetrate his face as he placed the photograph back inside the box.

Nothing else really mattered inside; undergarments, some old weapons, more clothes, and an old katana that was broken in half. Neji held the broken blade in his hands, remembering what had broken it in the first place. He felt Tenten's eyes on him, and he looked up to meet them. "I had forgotten about this."

"I'm not surprised." Tenten replied, "It was two years ago."

Neji wondered if his teammate realized his lie. The truth was, he had never forgotten. But, now was neither the time nor the place. Instead, he merely placed the blade back into the box and closed the cardboard together. "Thank you for putting everything together for me." The words slipped out, and he mentally cursed himself; he wasn't supposed to thank her. He was supposed to be angry, upset.

"No problem." Tenten smiled, "It's getting late, though. Tell Lee that I said hi." Neji was surprised, but he nodded dumbly.

"Right. Good night, Tenten."

"'Night, Neji." And he gathered up the box and left, leaving Tenten to stand in the kitchen. She listened as the door quietly clicked shut, and she sighed before leaning against the counter, staring at the white tile with deep brown eyes.

She placed her face in her hands and exhaled again; it had been harder than she thought.


"Ah, Neji-kun, you're back!!" The only reason Neji had opted to room with Lee in this apartment was because of the Hyuuga estate. Neji couldn't help but continue to feel caged by that large, invincible entity, even though relations between the two branches of Hyuuga were improving. It only reminded him of the past, and it fueled his want to be free.

Although sharing a two-bedroom apartment with Rock Lee was not Neji's first choice of housing, it was the closest he could get before being able to purchase a home on his own.

"...Did you wait up for me?" Neji asked, suspicious, as he set the cardboard box on the couch in the main room. Lee sheepishly grinned before leaning over to peer at the box in curiosity.

"Oh, so it's official now?" Neji grinded his back teeth.

"I don't think a box represents anything. Now, go to your own bed; I'm tired." Lee sighed before looking up at Neji with large, black eyes.

"Neji-kun, you really shouldn't let such a majestic thing go to waste...Gai-sensei would be so disappointed!"

"I don't give a damn what that eccentric old man thinks; just leave me be." Neji spat out, much more venomously than he had intended. But, it didn't show, and Lee let his lower lip tremble before he stood up and walked over to his own bedroom, pausing only to scoff.

"Maybe it was your short temper that made Tenten-chan--"

But Neji didn't hear the rest, for he collapsed onto the couch and pulled a pillow over his head, blocking out everything.


Neji waited at the training grounds, frowning. She was late.

He turned towards the tree again and began to slam his palms into it repeatedly, brow furrowed. He knew she wouldn't back out of a mission over such a petty thing, but at each blow to the tree, the small sense of doubt in the corner of his mind continued to grow.

Bark was beginning to lodge itself in his palms, and he finally pulled away. Sighing, he looked over the area again; except for the summer sun, it was deserted. His frown deepened as he began to pick the wood out of his hands, only to pause as another person entered the grounds. Neji stood up, a little hopeful, only to scowl at Uzumaki Naruto. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm your teammate, idiot." Naruto reminded him, and Neji blinked. He had forgotten. "But, I saw Tenten on my way here, and she told me to give this to you." An envelope was held out to him, and Neji eyed it jadedly before taking it.

Neji stuffed it inside of his shirt, eyes stormy.

"Neji, are you--"

"Go home, Naruto." Neji's jaw was set tightly, and he walked away from the blonde. Naruto watched in a stupor as Neji broke into a sprint, only closing his eyes when the dust from the road blew into his face.


Tenten held the other half of the katana blade in her hands, turning it over and over again so that it caught the light.

It had all happened so fast; too fast for both of them. That was why they needed the separation; they needed time to adjust. They had grown up too fast together.

Tenten was snapped out of her reverie by the sound of her front door being pulled open, and she immediately sat up from her bed. Before she had a chance to stand, however, her bedroom door was kicked open, and all she could do was stare.

Neji's ANBU mask was tied to his hip, and his cheeks were slightly flushed from his sprint to her home. His new katana was in hand, and Tenten momentarily wondered what he had used it for. He dropped it, however, and stalked over to her bed, eyes narrowed. He didn't speak, and Tenten finally was able to. "What are you doing here? Your mission..."

"No, our mission."

"...I'm...You know that Naruto's your teammate." Tenten fumbled out, standing from her bed; they were inches away from each other, and neither let up. "You shouldn't be here." Neji wasn't looking at her, though; he was staring at the broken off katana blade in her hands. She noticed and her cheeks burned as she tried to hide it behind her back, but he had already grabbed onto it, his hand over hers.

"...You had it? For all this time?" Neji inquired lowly, staring at his reflection in the blade. Tenten swallowed.


"Do you...Remember what I said? When this happened?" His voice was getting husky, and she forced herself to shake her head. She wanted to know if he remembered. "...I still believe in what I said." So, he did.

"I...You're making Naruto wait. You should leave."

He was in a stunned daze, and he reached out for her. He placed a hand on her hip, only to pull it back when she stepped away, right up against the bed. His arm fell, and so did his eyes.


"Tenten!"She watched, horrified, as Neji jumped in font of her, using his katana to force back another. She was immobilized by the loss of blood, and could only watch in a petrified state as Neji's blade began to crack.

"N-Neji..." In what felt like slow motion, Neji's expression changed from determined to shock as his katana broke in two, the S-class criminal piercing the young ANBU in the chest. Neji was only stunned for a moment, however, and he quickly dropped the broken blade and grabbed onto the one that was slowly tearing into his body. But, as he began to try and pry it away from him, he found that it slipped out of his chest on its own.

Neji looked up to see the missing-nin fall onto his back, Tenten breathing heavily as she collapsed as well, holding her right arm. "Neji! Neji, are you..." Before she could finish, she was enclosed by darkness.

She woke up the next day in the Konoha hospital, but she immediately closed her eyes as she heard the doctors behind the curtain. "Amazing. Even with this fatal wound, he managed to carry her all the way back here. Simply amazing."

"And they both lost substantial amounts of blood. It's a wonder they're even alive."


"Why?! Why would you do something so stupid? Why?!" Tenten rested her forehead on the edge of Neji's bed, crying into the thin hospital sheets. "How could you..." Neji looked down at her before sighing and using his hand to tilt her face up towards him.

"I...Am just a fool in love."


"Neji this mission is of utmost importance."

"Yes, Hokage-sama."

"Now...I picked you because I know you can handle it. But, Neji...I want you to know that there is a ninety percent chance that you will be fatally injured, or even killed."

Neji nodded solemnly."Yes, I'm aware."

"Now, as for your teammate, I've selected Tenten, since you two are compatible--"

"No, I can't accept that." Neji interrupted quickly, "Please reconsider."

Tsunade stared at him over the tops of her hands before closing her eyes, "I predicted that you would object, and luckily, Naruto is free for the mission. But, Neji," She reopened her eyes, "I already spoke to Tenten about the mission…"

Neji stiffened.

"She had agreed to go with you if you had allowed it."


He didn't say anything to her about it. He couldn't.

Instead, he allowed himself to be taken prisoner by her stare, her lips, her eyes...

"Tenten?" She didn't stop, and he was breathing even heavier. "W-What..." She just hushed him gently, smiling as she planted kisses along his neck.

"I want to..." And then it happened. Neji suddenly sat up, causing her to blink as he grabbed her by the shoulders. He stared at her before diving in, drowning in what could only be described as Tenten.

They were both awkward at first, trying too hard to please one another. But later on they developed a rhythm in the sounds of stripping each other's clothes off and heavy breathing. He was hovering over her, his long hair brushing against her skin, when he asked her again.

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Neji…I have to…Before you leave." His hands were on her hips when she said that, and they immediately flew away from her when she finished. He pulled himself away from her, suddenly cold. "What's wrong? Neji?" She sat up, confused, and touched his cheek.

Why did he have to ask her? He should've just kept quiet and let things progress themselves, but of course, he had to ruin the night. He knew what she would say, and he knew what his reaction would be. Still, he had asked that inevitable question, and it had brought back his conscience.

He was reminded of the consequences that would be if the night continued, and Neji closed his eyes, pressing Tenten's hand closer to his cheek. He exhaled before pulling away from her, reaching for his clothes.

"Neji! Wait!" He continued to pull on his pants, inwardly flinching when he heard the hitch in her voice, "Did I do something wrong?"


"Then why…? Neji!" He was dressed now, and at her bedroom door. His hand was on the doorknob when she said it, "I love you."

He almost ripped the doorknob from the wood.

"Don't love me now, Tenten. Not now."

And he left.


Tenten stared out the window as she sat on the edge of her bed, eyes remote and distant. The sun was beginning to set, and she ran a hand through the empty bed sheets, biting her lip.

Neji had moved to the bedroom door.

"Why are you doing this to me?" Tenten asked quietly. Neji did not give her the pleasure of responding. "After all that's happened, you're still standing in the same place." She looked over her shoulder, "What more do you want from me?"

"I just want you to understand." Finally, she smiled. Her lips curved in a sad, disillusioned manner that fit her features all too well.

"You didn't even read it, did you?" Neji put a hand on his left ribs, where he could feel the envelope resting against the metal armor and the fabric of his shirt. "You're keeping Naruto waiting." Tenten repeated. "Goodbye, Neji."



How long are we going to live? Isn't it reasonable to say that we might not even make it past twenty-five years of age, considering the amount of missions we have and the dangers of each one? Missions aside, who's to say another war won't erupt? How do we know that we'll continue on into old age?

We don't. We just don't.

Don't love me now, you say. You don't understand the impossibility of your words. You see, I can love you only now. The present is all we have. Our future is nonexistent.

We grew up too fast, Neji. We were killing other people at fifteen, and telling each other unknown feelings at sixteen. And now, at nineteen, we are living the lives of middle-aged men and women.

This is why I can't stop loving you now, Neji. If I stop loving you now, then I'll never love you again. I'll be dead before that.

So Neji, love me now, just as I will love you now.



The leaves were falling when Neji's unconscious body was dragged into Konoha by a wounded Naruto. Mild concussion, blood clot in the lungs, and two broken limbs, the medical-nins told her. It was a miracle he survived so long with the blood clot, they said.

They had no word to describe his ability to speak while in this state, miracle still being an understatement.

They gave her a note, stained with blood and dirt, and said that it was in his shirt and had her name on it. She had read it while standing, a mistake, for she fell to her knees weeping when she finished.


I read your note every night for a month while on this mission. Still, you don't seem to understand.

Someone helped her to her feet, led her to a chair, and explained that he would be going into immediate surgery.

I love you. What I said that night would never change that fact.

Another man rushed into the room, yelling for assistance. A lung had collapsed.

I couldn't take you that night, Tenten. Not because I don't love you, not because you did something wrong. But because I am a fool.

The door to the ER was left open, and she could see the medical-nin surrounding the table. She slipped inside, caught a glimpse of him, and nearly broke down again.

I thought you would break afterwards. And that if I were to die on this mission, you would fall apart. Now, after all this time, I finally realized that I am the weak-hearted.

Someone shouted at her, yelled for her to get out of the room. Someone else tried to pull her away, but she pushed and kicked and screamed. His head lolled to the side, and their eyes locked on one another. Blood was everywhere, even his lips as they curved up at her.

So, you were right all along, Tenten. Except, on one thing.

A low beeping filled her ears, steady as a drum. The man that was holding on to her let go.

We have a future, Tenten. So I will love you now, next week, next month, next year, next millennium…

His face turned towards her. She smiled and wiped at her eyes.

And hopefully…Forever.


Tenten always enjoyed her Sunday mornings, where she would wake up a little before dawn, make two cups of tea, and sit out on the porch, the rocking bench creaking a slow rhythm. This morning the air was crisp, and she wrapped herself in a blanket before sitting on the swinging bench, sighing contently.

The grass was still splashed with dew and the sky was just turning orange when she would take her first sip of tea. Sometimes, before she could even raise the cup to her lips, her husband would surprise her by waking up earlier than usual and planting a kiss on her forehead before sitting down. This morning, he lay sound asleep in the bed that they shared. Her fingers curled around the cup subconsciously.

The mattress that they shared was old, and Tenten had had it since she was a young teenager. The memories…

"Good morning…" She looked up. "Is he awake?"

"No." She smiled. She enjoyed these mornings the best; when he would come to visit. Neji nodded, hesitated, then stepped up onto her porch. He sat down next to her, taking the other cup of tea. "Did you sleep well?" She inquired.

"No. Sakura kicks in her sleep, didn't I tell you?" He said her name gruffly. "What about you?"

"Lee snores." He glanced at her, "Very loudly." They shared a chuckle, sipped at their tea. Silence settled in, and Tenten pulled her blanket closer.

"Sakura wants children." Neji blurted out. Her eyebrows shot up, but she sighed and leaned back into the bench.

"So does Lee." She replied quietly, tapping her fingers on her cup. Neji examined her closely before holding her hand in his. She looked at him.

"Birth control." He said with a small smile. "I've been slipping them into her tea." He squeezed her hand tighter, "Thankfully she has a morning routine."

"She'll find out eventually…She's a medical-nin, anyhow."

"Eventually, yes." Tenten arched her eyebrow before frowning.

"You want her to find out?" He didn't answer. She looked away, finished the last of her tea. "Lee should be waking up soon."

"You're angry."

"Really, you should get back to your wife." Tenten stood, took Neji's cup.

"She's only my wife--"

"Yes, I know, on paper." Tenten finished for him. He stood up as well, tried to lean towards her, but she put her hand on his chest. "I don't think…We were meant to--" He grabbed her by the shoulders, and she dropped the china. It shattered.

"Don't say that. After all we've been through to even get this close…"

"Close? You call this close? We're married, Neji; to different people. We're as far away as it gets."

"We can run away. Elope." Tenten smiled wryly.

"Neji, when did you become such a dreamer?" He smashed his lips onto hers. When he pulled away, both were left a little dazed, but Tenten's head cleared quickly. "I can't let you destroy Sakura's future…And I can't hurt Lee."


"We're being selfish, Neji! Your family arranged your marriage, as did mine. You have to think about them." She paused, shrugged out of his grip, "Anyway…I…" She rested her hands on her stomach and looked away as Neji stared. His lungs became dysfunctional, and a rock was lodged into his throat as he stared at Tenten's stomach.

"How…How long?"

"6 weeks." He looked at her, "It's Lee's." Tenten entwined her fingers, "We just weren't meant to be happy together. You, of all people, should understand how fate works…"

"…I don't understand it. Not in the slightest bit…" She was crying now.

"I do love you Neji…"

He was already off the porch, down the street, and out of her line of vision.

We just weren't meant…

part 3
Tenten dropped the pile of scented mail onto Neji’s desk before sitting at her own. “More for your collection.” Neji glanced at the mixture of pink and white before returning to his paperwork.

“Did you turn in our report?”

“Of course I did.” They went back to work and, like every other Sunday, failed to comment on the notes to each other.

Neji had never had a problem with the notes, except for the occasional overflow of his mailbox in the office. However, he had no particular interest in them, either. For the most part, he never opened them, unless he recognized the handwriting. If he did, he would glance them over to whet his minimal curiosity before burning them with the rest during the winter.

“Don’t you want to look at them?” Neji paused in his writing. Tenten had never spoken of the notes before today.

“Not particularly.”

“Oh.” He went back to work and noticed her furtive glances at the pink and white notes. His mind refused to return to the mission report and instead volleyed back and forth between Tenten and the notes.

Had she always been curious? Had he looked over her indifference as a secret longing of information? Was it idle boredom that made her glance at them? Or maybe she knew something about this particular set of notes? The possibilities were limitless and Neji spent the remainder of the workday trying to think of every one.

“Neji,” It was seven, and Tenten was getting ready to leave, “are you working overtime?” Neji saw that he had finished only three out of ten reports. He looked at the notes on the corner of his desk, glanced at Tenten, hesitated, then turned back to the notes.

“Yes. I’ll see you tomorrow.” There was no choice: he had to read them. He could not bear the thought of not knowing what was going on in his friend’s head, and knew better than to ask her about the notes. He had learned that women were experts in the arts of deception and guilt.

So, Tenten said her goodbyes (he thought she sounded a little flushed; rest would do her good) and left him alone in his office. He waited a few minutes after she had gone before examining the notes. There were four pink-tinted ones, and a lone white envelope in the pile. The first two were too over the top for his taste, the third one was passable, and the fourth was exceptionally horrendous. He was growing frustrated; why would Tenten be curious of mediocrity?

Then, he came to the final one, in the plain white envelope. The handwriting on the front was easily distinguished by him, and he was swarmed with warmth that spread to his head. Sitting back in his chair, he smirked, smug; that was why she kept looking over! It was so simple, so--

“Hey, I forgot my--” He tried to hide the envelope under his shirt, but she had already caught him. They stared at each other for a few seconds, which turned to a few minutes easily. She finally looked at the envelope, saw that it was unopened, and let her shoulders sag. “If I could just have that back…I didn’t mean to send it.” Before he could respond, Tenten had rushed the desk and swiped the envelope out of his open hand. “Sakura must’ve mailed it by mistake.”

“It’s addressed to me, though, so it’s mine.” Neji replied, leaning forward in his seat. He easily plucked it out of her fingers and trapped her left wrist against the desk surface, making her escape vain.

“That doesn’t make it yours!” He glanced at her before ripping the note open with his teeth. “Neji--” He ignored her and read the paper once, twice, three times. The first time he was in a state of shock, the second in denial, and the third, finally, ecstasy.

She tried to squirm away from the desk, cheeks tinted pink, only to stop when Neji stood from his seat. He stared at the side of her face when she turned away, and finally, with a strong tug, yanked her over the top of the desk and into his arms, both of them landing in a heap on the large swivel chair. “Neji!” He threw the note behind his shoulder and kissed her.


Add this to your collection.

I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you,

I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you,

I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.



part 4

His lips were pressed in a thin line when the camera flashed and the photographer frowned but shrugged. He had already taken four shots for the Hyuuga’s new pass and no longer cared for the details. Neji thanked the man before retreating back to the streets of Konoha, relieved. Tenten and Lee were waiting for him.

“Why don’t you like taking pictures, Neji? They bring out the youth in everyone!” Lee proclaimed.

“I never said I didn’t like taking pictures.” Neji replied and Tenten chuckled.

“It’s obvious from your pictures. I mean, look!” The two swiped out their wallets and a slide of pictures fell down from both of them. “Your fourteenth birthday party,” A picture of Neji in front of a cake, face expressionless.

“All of our team get-togethers.” Lee pointed to the numerous pictures of himself and Neji and Neji with Naruto, Shikamaru, and countless others.

“My sweet sixteen--”

“Our first A-Ranked mission--”

“Our first solo mission--”

“The Sakura Festival last year--”

“The Obon festival--”

“Yes, yes, I understand your point.” Neji interrupted his teammates hastily with a frown, pushing the pictures away from his face. “I do not smile in my pictures, I realize that.”

Lee was about to agree, but then spotted a few pictures hidden in Tenten’s wallet. “Oh, here are some of you and Tenten! See, you’re not even smiling--” He stopped abruptly before beaming, “Ah, you are!” Neji and Tenten both leaned it to look at the pictures in disbelief.

“Hm, you are!”

“Where? I see nothing.” Lee enthusiastically pointed at Neji’s mouth.

“How can you not see it? Right there.” Neji pressed his nose to the picture and finally saw the tiniest curve of his lips as he stood next to Tenten. He did not realize that although he did enjoy taking pictures with her, that it would show on his face.

Although he would never admit, Neji actually loved taking pictures with Tenten. She was taken to striking poses with him whenever a camera was nearby, and in almost every pose she would touch him. In this particular picture, she was holding onto his arm and waving. It meant nothing special, but the extra feeling of her skin against his was very gratifying. Any extra touch that she gave him, he relished in. Even if it was the mere bump of the arm, the hand on his shoulder as he sat, or just holding her hand when she helped him off the ground, every small sensation seemed to be magnified by ten.

Perhaps it was because they did not touch each other often outside of the professional world, where they would help each other during battle and missions. Even then, however, he felt his skin crawl. He reminisced to the fight against Akatsuki, about three years ago, and still felt her body against his when he kept her from falling. It had only been for a few seconds, but that one touch satisfied him for many months. There were many days when Neji thought himself as sick for savoring Tenten’s touch in such excess and on these days he distanced himself from her.

Today was one of those days, so when the two invited him to lunch he politely declined and walked away as quickly as he could without being suspicious. Naturally, Tenten realized his aversion and later that day went out to find him. He was in the Hyuuga’s estate’s training facilities, attacking a wooden post when she found him.

“Hey Neji.” He grunted a greeting while continuing to slam his palms into the wood. “We missed you at lunch, everyone ended up being there. It was a lot of fun.”

“I see.” She watched him for a little while more before sighing and crossing her arms over her chest.

“Okay, out with it.” He stopped, breathing heavier than usual, and wiped his forehead with the back of his hand.


“Come on, I know something’s up. Was it about the pictures? We were just playing around.” He shook his head and sat down on a bench, grabbing a towel to put around his neck. He told her that nothing was wrong and glanced at her when she sat next to him. “Please, we’ve been friends for how long?” It was when she touched his arm that he shuddered. He felt his throat constrict when she noticed and looked at him oddly. “Are you okay?”

‘Don’t touch me. Oh god, but I want you to…’

“Yes, I think I just have a cold.” Tenten frowned and moved her hand away from him and he thought he was safe. However, she only moved her hand to place it against his forehead and he felt his entire chest rise.

“Well, you do feel a little warm. Get some rest.” She stood up and removed her hand from him. He felt relieved but also very empty. “I’m meeting up with everyone tonight for dinner. If you feel up to it, you should join us.” She then grinned and winked at him, “I’ll even save you a seat next to me.” She thought she was just teasing him, but in actuality it was pure torture.

“I-I don’t think I’ll be up to it.” He stood quickly and pretended to wipe his face with the towel to hide his red cheeks, “Give my regards to everyone.”

“Party pooper.” Tenten playfully shoved his shoulder, but her hand lingered there much longer than he thought it should. He couldn’t take it; she was touching him so much in such a short period of time. He was sure that he was going to explode from all of the sensations. Neji quickly stepped away from her before briskly walking into the estate, leaving Tenten bewildered. “Neji? I was just playing around!”

Once inside his room he collapsed onto his bed, the towel over his face and his hand on his chest. He only reacted this way when Tenten touched him and he was confused on why. God knows that Ino and Lee have stepped past his personal boundaries, but only Tenten could make him this flustered. He could still feel her hand on his forehead, his arm, his shoulder…His thoughts traveled back to when her soaking wet body was in his arms, her head on his shoulder, and he nearly lost it.

“Neji?” He jumped from his bed to see Tenten at his door, meekly staring at him. “Did I make you mad? Is that why you don’t want to come to dinner?”

“No, it’s just I don’t feel up to it.”

‘Because whenever you touch me I want to pin you against the wall and--’

“Your face is all red again. Why don’t I take you to the hosptial? It looks serious--”

‘I seriously want to take complete advantage of you…God she’s so cute when she’s worried…Oh god don’t come over here.’

She sat on hid bed next to him and touched his face with a frown, “You’re burning up.”

“Listen, Tenten, it’s nothing serious.” Neji could feel the blood running south and he placed the towel in his lap, “Go to dinner.”

“Let me check you out; I learned a little medical ninjutsu.”

“That’s unnecessary--” The rest came out as a hiss from a sharp intake of breath as Tenten moved her hand underneath his shirt. As soon as her skin touched his, his mind exploded. He grabbed her by the shoulders and pressed her as close to him as possible, the sensation of her against his chest almost unbearable.


“You always have to touch me…You have no idea what you do to me.” Neji said lowly, moving his hands to her legs to position them around his waist. He had to be as close to her as possible. It was the only way he would not go insane.

“…I didn’t know how sensitive you are.” Tenten whispered into his ear before gently nibbling on it. He responded by attacking her neck.

“So sensitive…You…no idea…” It didn’t register that she was not repulsed by his attacks until a few minutes later. “So…You and I…?” She kissed his mouth.

“If you liked me so much, you should’ve just asked me out on a date instead of suddenly ravaging me like this.” He chuckled and snuggled his face into her neck.

‘Yes, doing this years ago instead of thinking about it would have been much more gratifying…’

“You like it.”

“Ahh…T-True. Now I know why you like taking pictures with me.”

He looked up from her neck to smirk, “I just love taking pictures.”

part 5

He had never felt more useless in his life then he did at this moment, sitting in the waiting room of the hospital with only minor injuries. Just being in the building made him want to crawl into himself, to see outside but not let anyone see inside. Never again.

“He’s in a coma…We have no way of telling when or if he’ll wake up.”

Hyuuga Neji stared at his longtime teammate when he was finally allowed to see him. The mission was supposed to be simple, but weren’t they all? They were only to escort an elderly man to Sunagakure, but as fate would have it, the elderly man was a narcotics dealer and had more than one hit on him. The first three assassins had worn them out, but Neji had thought the fourth would be easy. He could see it, feel it, all over again, just by looking at Rock Lee’s frozen face.

Turning, turning, back to back, swiping down weapons. Suddenly, a black hole and Lee was down. Yelling, something wet on his face, and then his arm went right through the body. Organs pulsating around his forearm, head spinning, falling, checking for a pulse. Silence. Oh, the silence…

The silence would always be the worst.

“It seems he was attacked from behind. We did surgery on his back, but his spinal cord had suffered previous damage years ago. We’ve done a lung transplant already, but--”

They told him that he could not breathe on his own, that a machine was keeping him alive at present. That they would wait a week, but if he did not progress…

Neji went home at around three in the morning after giving the hospital Gai’s contact information. He ignored his cousins, his uncles, Hiashi and Hinata as he made his way to his bedroom. He stripped down to his mesh shirt and pants before sitting on the edge of his bed. All he could see was Lee’s face, still frozen in a way that scared Neji. People often presume that people look peaceful in their sleep. They are wrong. All Neji could see in Lee’s face was the pain, surprise, and disappointment of his failure.

Neji pushed his palms into his eyes. He wanted to rip the disgusting lavender from his eye sockets, replace them with decent eyes that would not go out. What was the point of having eyes when during the one important time of your life, you cannot see? What was the point of living when you fail your one purpose in life? What else is there?

For Neji, nothing.

He felt empty as he swallowed, pausing to let it get into his bloodstream before taking another handful and gulping it down.

Was this my fate? To kill my…Friend?’

He set the bottle down and lay on his bed.

Is this all there is to life? Just one purpose, one goal you have to achieve and then…What? What happens after that? This?’

He rested his hands on his stomach.

Is there anything after? What’s the point? What do you do when you’re useless? What then?

“Neji? Gai called me--” She opened the door to his room, eyes already red from crying. She saw his body on the bed, the bottle on the floor, and screamed.

He could faintly hear her and see her.

Why are you here? There’s no point…

“Neji! Neji!

Loud sirens, people in white. Brown eyes.

Tenten…I’m sorry.


Tenten sat in the hospital room, Neji on her right and Lee on her left. She kept a hand on one of theirs at all times.

“Once they get into your bloodstream, it spreads so quickly.” She hadn’t stopped crying since she found him.

“He is awake now. I don’t think the other one realized…”


When the painkillers were finally flushed out of his system and he awoke, she was there. She grabbed his white smock and sobbed into it, continuously reminding him of how stupid and selfish he was. In return, he grabbed her by the shoulders and shouted into her face.

About how useless he is, how he wanted this, how selfish she was being--

You said ‘I’m scared’, Neji!” She screamed at him, still crying, “Right before they took you away…You looked at me and said ‘I’m scared’!” He let go of her and she him. Silence.

“…I killed my friend.” He clenched his jaw as he cried silently, “I killed him!

Lee’s alive you idiot!” Tenten moved out of the way and Neji’s face stiffened. Lee lay in the next bed over, eyes partially open as he stared back. “He woke up just before I came to your estate!” Neji could only stare.

The face was unfrozen and a tiny smile crept onto it while he weakly picked his arm up, pushing his thumb into the air. Neji;s grip on the bed sheets tightened and he quickly looked down at them, his breathing quickening.

“You could’ve died…For nothing.” She said quietly.

“What…Am I to do?” He looked up at her, back teeth clenched and brow furrowed in unending frustration, “What do you expect me to do with myself?! I can’t protect anyone…I can’t do what I’m supposed to. What--”

“So you’re going to give up?” She wiped the tears from her face, only for new ones to begin to form, “You’re just going to give up and leave me because you couldn’t do one thing?”

“You don’t understand--”

“Yes, I do! There is so much more to live for!” She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, desperate, “Your friends and family all need you, Neji. I need you.”

The silence was still the worst. He felt so tired, so bruised, and still so immensely useless. And yet, when he looked over Tenten's head to see Lee smiling and mouthing out words, he felt himself begin to silently cry again. However, for different reasons.

“Tenten…I’m sorry.”

Part 6

It’s not fair.

Hyuuga Neji watched as Rock Lee casually put a hand on Tenten’s shoulder as he complimented her outfit for the occasion. When he had accidentally--well, perhaps deliberately--brushed shoulders with her earlier, she had instantly moved away and touched her skin, as if it were burnt. But when Lee touched her arm, her hand, her shoulder, and even her waist, she smiled. To Neji’s chagrin, however, it was not only Lee’s touch that made her smile. Apparently, only his own skin seemed to bother her; everyone else was allowed a free grope. Naruto, Kiba, Lee, and even Chouji were allowed to embrace her, people he was sure she had no personal connections with, unlike himself. But this was only a minor offence considering the foolish men who danced with her. That damned Kankuro--whom she had only spared a few words with, while she had been friends with Neji for years--had the audacity to place a hand on her waist and hold her hand as they danced. Silently, Neji cursed Naruto for inviting the ninja from Sunagakure to the blonde’s inauguration party. Actually, he had not recognized the puppeteer without his despicable makeup. The fact that Tenten would even dance with this transgender was a blow to Neji’s pride, but alas, there was nothing--in the politically correct sense, mind you--that he could do.

So, with no authority to react and unwilling to bear the guilt of ruining Naruto’s party, Neji sat at the corner table alone and watched.

It’s really not fair.

Really, the only time he had touched her was either in battle, training, or by accident. And the only time that she never recoiled from his acidic touch was in battle, when she was too weak or out of breath to resist. Secretly, he was glad that he had more stamina then her; it provided him a slim chance in every mission to touch her at least once. Of course, she would never let him carry her, like she let Lee. He had offered a few times, but all in vain. She would shake her head, not wanting to be a bother, but when Lee offered, she did not argue. He never showed it, but it was at these moments when the feelings would boil over. The jealousy of Lee’s ease with her, the anger of his wounded pride, and the misery of rejection all fused together to create a silent mask that Neji placed over his face, only cracking to make bitter remarks and scathing replies. Just thinking about the events caused all of the feelings to rise up in Neji once again and he had to look away from her and her dance partner.

Why? Why did she hate him so? He had always thought of her as a decent girl, and, starting years ago when they were fifteen, as friends. Then again, he thought, she could not possibly hate him, for they conversed and laughed together. It must just be his painful touch that she hated and for some reason, that was worse than her hating him. He wanted to touch her arm, her shoulder, her hand, her waist, her face, her neck. In a friendly matter or in an intimate one, it did not matter; all Neji wanted was to be able to touch his friend and object of slight affection without her withdrawing. It did not seem like too much to ask for; and yet, why was his goal so unattainable? He wanted to know; yearned for an answer to a simple question: why. And on any other night he would have let his feelings slowly fade away, as they always did, but tonight was different; tonight, there was an open bar.

“May I steal her for a moment?” Without waiting for an answer, Neji successfully nudged the puppet fiend away from his lovely Tenten and proceeded to grab her hand and firmly put a hand on her waist. Really, she was lovely, especially tonight in a red dress that screamed “touch me” and with her hair down. He supposed it was very fitting for the subject of conversation he was leaning towards.

“N-Neji!” She was surprised, of course, and her giant brown pools widened; but, to his delight, she did not move away. Instead, she scowled at him, “That was very rude! Kankuro traveled miles to come here, you know.”

All the questions he was going to ask, all the accusations had evaporated from his mind when she looked at him like that; like she did when they were laughing together. She had never before acted like herself when he touched her, yet alone danced with her. His chest was swelling, but his lips only slightly curved. “It’s not fair if everyone else can dance with you and I cannot.” She glanced away, and he felt the panic begin; he did not want this to be a repeat of every other time, of every other failed touch.

“Well then, you should’ve asked instead of stealing me away like that.” He gave a brief chuckle to exhale the relief out of his system and she smiled. The moment was short-lived, however, when the music ended. She abruptly stopped and let go of him, “Oh, time for Naruto to make his speech.” Neji wanted to put his hand in the middle of her back as he walked behind her, but he resisted; the night was going so well, he could not bare to see it ruined.

The rest of the night was brief conversations and congratulations, and Tenten disappeared into the circle of girls leaving Neji, ironically, with Kankuro at the bar. “You look quite different without your…Face paint.” Neji managed to at least be polite in referring to Kankuro’s makeup in a more politically correct manner; he hadn’t even meant to talk, but alcohol does strange things to the brain and tongue. In reply, Kankuro laughed and passed Neji another drink. The two conversed lightly, the puppeteer doing most of the talking, for the rest of the night. Finally, it was time to leave.

“I’ll walk you home.” Neji told her, but he didn’t have to; it really was an unwritten rule that Neji would walk her home at any event. It just fell into routine. As they walked towards her home, Neji continuously glanced at her. He wanted to offer her his arm, but would that be too much? Holding hands was out of the question, that was much too intimate. The same went for putting an arm around her shoulder, especially when they were bare due to her dress. He had just started to slowly remove his arm from his side when suddenly, Tenten slipped her arm into his and peeked up at his face with pink cheeks.

“I’m a little cold, so…”

“Ah.” He was sure that she could hear his heart beat as if it were plugged into an amp, or notice the slight jump he gave when she willingly touched him. Willingly. He had no need to ask her any questions; he was completely satisfied. And yet, in the back of his mind, the question itched. It was the alcohol that finally brought the words to life. “You never allowed me to touch you before. I’m a little surprised.”

“…I’m sorry. Just…You’re different from everyone else.”

“How so?” They were at her door, and she let go of him. He felt cold. Tenten looked up at him and blushed, one hand on the doorknob.

“You’re very important to me.” She twisted the knob, “I didn’t want you to touch me because I was afraid I’d do something stupid.” Neji felt his chest almost disappear and his head grew very light.

“Like what?” She stood on the tips of her toes and pressed her mouth against his. Instantly his hand went to cup her face while the other was on her waist. Her mouth against his was like perfect symmetry, like everything just fit together. Alas, she pulled away, but this time he knew it was not out of disgust.

“Like that.” He hadn’t noticed that her hand was still on the doorknob, and before he could even say anything, she gave him a peck on the cheek and slipped inside her home, closing the door swiftly behind her. He stood there for a moment in shock before chuckling and leaning his forehead against the door.

“Hm, that wasn’t fair. I don‘t even get to come inside?” He heard her laugh on the other side.

“All’s fair in love an war, Neji.”

Part 7.

He was tired of his teammate--no, he despised his teammate. He hated how his teammate always caught her when she fell before he could even move, how he always complimented her before he himself could even say a proper greeting. Even at formal events (which he believed to be his personal forte), his teammate seemed to best him. Surely, he did not ask for much. A look here, a smile there, brief touching to let her know that he would do all the things his teammate does, if given the chance. He just wanted to be first for once. Just once and he would be satisfied, he told himself. Just once.

Tonight, he was thoroughly prepared.

It was a formal event for a young woman’s birthday, whose name eluded him, for all thoughts were focused. He stood at the bar, hand resting on the edge, and stared at the entrance. Of course, he would not pounce like an animal, but calmly approach and give a proper greeting. When she entered, he hesitated before proceeding to greet her. As he approached, however, he pounced on her.

“Tenten-chan, hello! You--” Neji briskly walked (or sprinted) to her and slapped a hand on Lee’s shoulder, perhaps a little harder than acceptable.

“Good evening. Your dress suits you, Tenten.” He was not going to be outdone; not tonight.

“Oh, thank you, Neji.” She smiled at him and he melted. The shine in her eyes and the light blush in her cheeks that formed whenever she was complimented truly made the sprint and the shortness of breath worthwhile. Lee, however, moved on with the race.

“I’ll show you our table--”

“Let me take your coat.” Neji interjected, glancing at his rival. Lee blinked at him, but Neji could see past the façade. How could she not?

Neji helped Tenten slink out of her slim coat, relishing in the softness of her skin as his hands brushed over her shoulders. How could her skin be so soft, but her movements so harsh? Because, of course, she was Tenten. He allowed Lee to show her the way to the table, for it allowed him to ghostly brush his hand over her back, an acceptable gesture to make sure that they would not be separated in the crowd. Lee beat him, however, in offering a chair to her, so he sat across her from stiffly. Lee and Tenten talked freely as he listened in, brow furrowing at every smile and giggle she gave his teammate. He still could not master this part and could only watch as Lee won battle after battle.

“Really Tenten-chan, you do look stunning tonight.”

“Oh, thank you.”

“Of course, you’re always beautiful.” Tenten’s cheeks grew red as she smiled and thanked him, all the while tugging on one of her dangling earrings that Neji had been focusing on to ignore the pangs of defeat. There was music playing, and people had finally taken the dance floor. Neji watched in horror as Lee moved to stand up.


Neji abruptly stood up from his chair, causing the other two to look up at him. He inhaled before offering his hand to her, eyes averted, "Dance?" He could have been smoother, but there was no time and he was, embarrassingly so, inexperienced in the art of courting. She looked at him in surprise before standing up herself, but not taking his hand.

“I didn’t know you could dance, Neji.”

“It would be useful for me to learn.” He replied, following her to the crowd. He had not thought of a plan up to this point; he was not even aware that dancing would be involved. Nervously, he placed a hand on her hip and held the other in his left. He stood still in place and stared at her, hoping she would lead so he would not have to seem like a complete fool. But of course, it was Tenten, and she smirked at him.

“Don't you know how to start?”

He stayed silent and averted his eyes from her in embarrassment; he knew fate would be pitted against him.

However, she smiled and adjusted his hands so they were in the right places, “Ready? Just follow my lead.” His head was spinning as they danced, ever aware of his hand on her hip and hers in his hand. Everything fit perfectly; surely she noticed as well. How could she not? It was impossible to deny that there was something there. He knew she felt it; he could see it in her eyes, her face, her lips…

He nervously moved his hand to place it against her back, underneath her arm to carefully bring her closer to him. She moved into his frame automatically--naturally. Their fingers intertwined at the same exact moment as their eyes locked. Neji's lungs stopped functioning and he had to look away from her perfectly symmetrical face to breathe. She hesitated before leaning closer and resting her head on his chest; he noticed that she did so just as a wall of people shielded them from their table's view.

"Hm...Your heartbeat finally slowed down." Tenten murmured, her voice barely audible over the sounds of music and voices. "You shouldn't get nervous like that; it's bad for your health."

"I wasn't nervous." Neji lied, "Perhaps you were." She tilted her head to smile at him.

"What reason would I have to be nervous? I'm only dancing with you." Was that a compliment or an insult? Was she saying that she was so comfortable around him that everything just felt right, or was she saying that all actions concerning him were of unimportance to her? Was he winning or losing?

"Am I doing everything correctly?" He asked instead and she assured him that he was. He wanted to talk more, to know more, but he could not.

"We should head back to the table soon. I don't want to abandon Lee." She said after another couple of minutes. His grip on her tightened subconsciously.

"I'm sure he's conversing with the others." They had only been alone for perhaps fifteen minutes; it had felt like seconds to Neji.

Tenten strained her neck to see Lee, in fact, talking with the others at the table and sighed, "You're right." Maybe fate was on Neji's side tonight. "I am getting hot, though. Why don't we go sit, Neji?" He glanced back at their table, where Lee and some other friends were seated.

He searched for an excuse, "You'll still be warm in here. It's cooler outside."

He stopped his feet, removed the hand from her back, and discreetly led her through the crowd to the exit, out into the night. “Neji! What has gotten into you tonight?" Tenten asked, suspicious, as she followed him down the side path of the building that led to the back courtyard. "I know you're not fond of social events, but really. And," She paused when he let go of her hand to face her, "you've never acted like this before. Is something wrong?"

Neji slipped his hands into his pockets to keep them from reaching out to her. Her cheeks were flushed from dancing, but her eyes were cool and vulnerable from worry. The guilt suffocated him. "I," He swallowed quickly and composed himself, "I apologize. I didn't mean to bring you out here." She analyzed him closely before crossing her arms over her chest.

"Yes you did. Otherwise, you wouldn't have." She tilted her head at him, "What do you have to say?" Am I winning?

"Nothing. I apologize." I want to win...But...

She closed her eyes and shook her head at him. What if I try...and lose?

She touched his left arm and sternly looked up at him, "You don't hesitate in battle, so you don't in your personal life, either."

...You're right.

He leaned forward and kissed her, right hand in his pocket while his left gently held onto her hand that was placed on his arm.

As their lips made contact she pulled away in surprise, but he remained in place watching her, willing her to come back; just once. If I lose...At least I'll have this image of her...

She came back, gently and slowly.

I won.

Part 8


“I can’t…”

You will.

She whipped the scroll out while biting her thumb and wiping the blood onto the paper. At almost inhuman speed, she used both hands to propel the appearing weapons at a continuous rate that required him to use his Hakkesho Kaiten for over a full minute. Finally, her weapon supply was spent and he could let down the chakra barrier. Panting heavily, she could barely stand on her feet, and the scroll lay abandoned on the grass.

“Good.” His eyes widened and he quickly blocked the kunai that was thrown perfectly at his face, aiming for his left eye. The explosive note attached to the handle exploded on contact, and he was forced to cover his face with his arms. He waited patiently for another attack, but nothing came. The burns on his forearms were not extreme, and he was unsatisfied with her: she had purposefully used a smaller explosive note. “A level two? Tomorrow we’ll go on for an extra two hours.”

The smoke cleared to reveal her laying on her back, her chest heaving. “…I didn’t have any other notes.”

“Then you were unprepared. Buy more tomorrow before training.”

“I don’t have any money.”

“You fool, I’ll pay for them.” She turned her head so she was looking up at him. Her face was dirty and her eyes saw into him when he made eye contact. He looked away.

“Thanks.” She reached her hand out and he grasped it to lift her from the ground. The weapons disappeared with smoke as they returned back to the scroll, to be used for tomorrow. He rolled the scroll up and put it into her bag, which he slid onto his shoulder while she leaned against the other.

“You know I have disposable income.”

“No, not for that.”

“For what, then?” She had fallen asleep as he carried her to her home. Routinely, he opened the door with the extra key that she had made for him and found her room through the dark. He set the bag in the chair next to her bed before placing her underneath the sheets. He undid the buns in her hair, left the ribbons on her nightstand, and retreated to the kitchen for water and painkillers. He left these, too, at her nightstand before leaving.


When he returned to his own estate, he went directly to his room. He sat on the windowsill and stared out at the courtyard. The fountain was still running and he could hear the water trickling down.

He needed to bring it out of her. He knew that she was locking it away, deep in the recess of her mind. If he did not free it, no one would, and it would ruin her. Hold her back. Tonight, he saw part of it in her eyes, but it was extinguished after he blocked the shot. He would force her to reveal it tomorrow; every last piece.

The glass was cool against his arm. He was growing tired of the cold.


“Harder, faster!”

“Neji, I can’t--”

Yes you can.

“I’ll hurt you!”

I don’t care, DO IT.

Three hours into training, he saw it again. It took over her, but it did not. She manipulated it, but she did not control it. They worked together, and he was frozen, but warm. He could only stand as she overtook him. He was pinned to a tree with a vast arrangement of weapons and chakra strings that were attached to them cut into his skin, as well as somehow stopping the flow of chakra throughout his body. It was released.

“Neji…” She stared at herself, however, and flexed her fingers. The power coursing throughout her was new and strangely comforting. “What is this?”

“You remember.” She did. She began to cry and leaned against his immovable body.

“I missed it…I missed the fire. Ever since Pein and Naruto-kun…I almost forgot how it felt. I felt it yesterday, just for a second, and I was so happy. Now…” She looked up at him, “Why? Why did you do this for me?”

“To make you shine again.”

She removed the weapons from his clothes and deactivated the chakra strings, allowing him to step away from the tree. The fire had died from her eyes a year ago, but he had managed to restart it. They left everything on the grass and he allowed her to finish crying into his chest as they sat. He held her loosely and, afraid of taking advantage of the moment, stared at the night sky.


“Tenten…She looks so different.” He listened to their mutual friends as they watched her Jounin match from the stands.

“It looks like her drive is back. Neji, did you notice?”

“Yes, she’s doing very well.”

“Do you know what got her out of her slump? She’s really going after this guy!”

“Perhaps our training sessions motivated her.”

“Yes, you two really bring out the best of each other during practice. She’s truly shining right now.” He could not help but give a small smile.

“Yes, she is.”

Part 9

She carefully rolled her hair into the uniform buns that she had grown accustomed to and placed her hands on the table, glancing at the mirror to watch him dress behind her. She knew that he was taking his time. He smoothed his shirt for the sixth time before finally putting it on, briefly catching her eye in the mirror. They both looked away.

“I put the usual stuff together for you.” She finally spoke, looking back into the mirror. He was standing behind her. She closed her eyes and leaned towards the mirror, resting her chin in her hand. “Lee is going with you, right? I packed some curry for him. Be sure to give it to him.” He bent down and brushed his lips against her bare shoulders. She bit her lip. “Make sure you keep an eye out for him. I know we’re Jounin now, but still.”

He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and rested his chin atop her scalp. She opened her eyes to look at their reflection. “Put your clothes on and come to breakfast.” He said coolly before leaving the bedroom and closing the door shut behind him. She pressed her palms into her closed eyes before standing and settling back into the annual routine. She slipped into the cotton underwear before pulling the white and blue sundress over her head and letting it fall just above her knees. The dress was worn once a year, and held no wrinkles. She hated it.

The breakfast she had prepared before he woke was still warm when she walked to the kitchen. He was drinking coffee and picking at the steamed rice on his left. She sat next to him and began her miso soup. “When do you have to leave?” He looked up from his coffee.

“Does it matter?”

“You shouldn’t be late.”

“I won’t.”

“Okay.” They ate in silent routine. Once the dishes were put away, he cornered her against the sink, as always. He cupped her face and she placed her hands against his.

Every year for the past three years, from late August to late December, he would leave her. This time, he was to leave her for Kumogakure, a village on the other side of the Continent. Tsunade would always send her regrets, but would always remind her that it was necessary. That it was inevitable until the political relations of the villages were bettered. She had once suggested that Tsunade herself should go, and had received a two-week suspension without pay for her comments. She understood why he would be chosen to go. She should not complain.

He was saying something. “…You, Tenten.” She sighed and let her hands fall to her sides. She could manage without him; it was not impossible. She had lived just fine before she even knew him, and she had surely lived without him before. Yes, she would be fine after the first day.

He kissed her on the mouth gently before he allowed her to embrace him tightly, hugging back loosely. She knew he had to try and distance himself from her, and that she should do the same. But, even though holding on was more painful, it was easier than letting go.

They stood on the front porch of their house, the sun just peeking over the horizon. She looked at the flowers she had planted so perfectly along the perimeter, and she remembered the summer that they first bloomed. She had teased him for not helping with the flowers, saying they would have died if he had helped. He had said something about not being able to, since he did not live at the house. “If you lived with me, it’d be more convenient and I would’ve helped.” He had said. The next summer, he had moved in with her.

He was talking again. “…Love you.” She looked away from the tulips to stare up at him.

“I love you, too.” He admired her for a moment before taking her right hand and taking something out of his pocket. He slid the engagement ring off of her finger and replaced it with a wedding band. She stared.

“Hold onto mine until I return.” He said quietly, placing his wedding band into her palm and closing it with his hands. “You wanted a wedding with snow, right? The day I come back, not a day later.”


“I promise.” He wiped a few tears away from her face before kissing her again. “Just wait.” She choked out a laugh and a sad smile.

“What else do I do?”

He left her on the front porch crying, smiling, and waving.


She waited at the front door, staring out the window through the thick snowfall. Her fists were so tightly clenched that his wedding band made an imprint in her palm. She checked the clock and closed her eyes before resting her forehead against the window, the glass cool. He had never arrived after two in the morning. But, there had to be a first time for everything. She fell asleep an hour later against the front door.

The snow was almost melted and had turned black. She no longer carried his wedding band with her and instead kept it in her jewelry box. She went back to work. However, when she returned, she still waited at the front door. She refused to see Tsunade, and the elder did not search for her. She went out with her friends once in a while and still politely turned down any suitors. She always wore her wedding band.


There was only a little snow left on the ground when there was a knock at her front door. She quickly opened the door and her arms so he could fall into her. She knelt on the floor so she could embrace him fully while he wrapped his arms tightly around her waist and buried his face into her lap. She planted a thousand kisses of the warmest touch on his forehead, his hair, his face, and his mouth and tried to stop her tears from hitting him and his wounds.

“Tenten, I’m--”

“Don’t.” She kissed his mouth when he finally had the strength to sit up. “It doesn’t matter. You’re here. Nothing else…” He kissed her deeply, running his tongue over every familiar part of her mouth before bringing her closer.

“We can still have a snow wedding…We can wait--”

“No.” He stared at her. “You said…The day you return, no day later.” She buried her face into his shoulder. “Don’t make me wait.” He closed his eyes and wrapped himself around her.

“Then let’s go to Tsunade.”

“But, let’s go to the hospital first--”

“No. The hospital can wait.” He opened his eyes to stare at her. “Tenten, I love you.”

Her response was, as always, the same: “I love you, too.”

Part 10

She could not control her rapid pants of breath nor could she try to calm her heart, which was beating painfully in her chest. For years, she had trained herself against this and yet, when finally put into the position, her mind crumbled underneath the pressure: Tenten was panicking.

She tried to assess her location and found herself trapped in a small, cylindrical room made of some type of smooth rock, perhaps marble. It was impossible to distinguish what kind of walls she was surrounded by, for trying to touch the walls resulted in an electrical shock that shot through her whole body, and the heavy darkness of the room blinded her. She could guess that the ceiling was a couple meters above her, but climbing the walls proved impossible, for the electrical shocks sent her spiraling back down to the ground.

So Tenten sat in the middle of the room, hugged her knees close to her chest, and tried to calm herself.

She had never been in this position before, nor did she ever really think that she would be. She was strong, fast, and smart. She had been on the other side multiple times, but never on the inside.

She jumped to her feet when a ray of light shone down from the ceiling, the slab of rock sliding to allow the light in. “She’s awake.”

“Bring her up.”

She grinded her back teeth, “You--” She stiffened as the ground underneath her began to move, a pillar of earth shooting her up to the ceiling as it parted. As she rose to the top, she bent her knees to jump at her attackers, but was held in place as the earth swallowed her feet and hardened around her ankles. Her scrolls and weapons had been taken, so her hands were rendered useless as she finally arrived at the ground level, squinting her eyes in the sudden light.

While her eyes were adjusting, she felt someone move behind her, and she swiped at him with her left arm, successfully grabbing a handful of hair. “Damn!” Before she could yank him in front of her, however, another man dug his fist into her gut, and without the balance of her feet, she fell onto her hands and knees, coughing.

“That’s enough.” She looked up to finally see her surroundings. She was in a cave of some sorts and she could spot the entrance a good hundred meters away. The air was moist and cool and the earth underneath her hands was damp. She heard the sound of running water and found an internal waterfall near her left. She also took a look at her enemies. There were three: one with long black hair whom she had grabbed, one with bulging arms whom she assumed had hit her, and then the one whom she and her teammates were supposed to kill, a man sitting on the ground in front of her with bright green eyes and the signature slash through his Konoha headband. He was the one who had spoken, the assumed leader of the group.

He stared at her intently, his lips curved, while the other two men stood to try and intimidate her. She glared back and tried to stand, only to fall back to her knees from the immobility of her feet. This caused him to laugh and she growled. “If you’re going to kill me, do it.” She could feel her heart beat quickening as the sound filled her ears, but her pride would not allow her to show her fear to the enemy. It was unheard of and despicable.

“Why would I kill you? If I did that, your teammates would never show up, and then I’d have to worry about them every time I do business.” The man added, “And I’m sure you look fascinating without clothes.” Her blood ran cold as the other two shared low chuckles. She diverted her stare to the ground and swallowed as she felt sweat form on her forehead; the other two were staring at her now, but not in the malicious, intimidating way as before.

“Dai, why don’t we find out?” The one with long hair asked, never removing his eyes from her. The leader smirked.

“Her screams would attract her teammate’s attention…”

“You’re idiots if you think they’d come after me!” Tenten hissed in desperation, forcing herself to look at Dai, “Once you leave, they’ll attack from everywhere without mercy. You’re wasting your time by holding me hostage!”

This only amused Dai, “Then we’ll be spending a lot of time together in this cave, Tenten-chan.” She froze. “Yes, I know all about you and your teammates. What kind of S-class criminal would I be if I didn’t break into Konoha’s files every once in a while?”

“T-Then you know that waiting for my teammates to rescue me is futile!”

“Actually, it makes me think otherwise.” He stared at her in silence for a few moments before instructing the other two men to stand watch outside the cave entrance. Once they were alone, Dai stood over her and smirked. She used the opportunity to try and trip him with her hands, but he quickly jumped over them before pinning them to the ground with his feet. “Now, now, try to relax. I won’t hurt you.” He added while digging his heels into the backs of her hands, causing her to let out a small cry. “Yes, just like that, only louder. The dog will surely hear you if you speak up a bit.”

She firmly bit her lip as he grabbed her chin and yanked her face up towards him. She felt her heart stop as she noticed how close her face was to his waist and tried to pull away. “They’ll bomb this whole cave if they have to, no matter what you do.” She tried again, but Dai ignored her.

“I know just what to do to get that genius of yours running.” He stepped away, leaving her hands free only for a second. As soon as she lifted them off the ground he grabbed them together by the wrists and when he removed his hand, her hands were chained together by granite. She swung her trapped hands at him, but he easily caught them and yanked her towards him, causing her to fall onto her stomach.

“He’s not going to come!” She repeated, “He’s not…”

He won’t. The plan was to wait outside and form barriers…He has to stick to the plan.

“We’ll see about that.” Dai then pushed Tenten so that she laid on her back with her hands behind her and he hovered above her, hands pinned on either side of her head. “And when he does, my men will capture him at the entrance. You see, I don’t want to kill him just yet. I want him to watch.” His fingers trailed along her neck and she sucked in a breath. “Yes, that will be entertaining. Don’t you think so?”

She closed her eyes and bit her tongue. Why would he say such things? Dai knew nothing about him. He was stoic, cool, and analytic. He would never put the mission in jeopardy. ‘And yet…’ Her eyes watered as Dai slipped his hands underneath her shirt. ’I wish he would…’ She tasted blood as he moved to her chest. ’No, this is the mission. After I am killed, Dai will only die as soon as he steps outside the cave.

“Come on now, you have to scream so they can hear you.” She let out a gasp when he pulled down her pants, “Well, I’ll help you with that.”

“Go to hell!” She hissed back, but he only chuckled and continued on. Tears fell out of the corner of her eyes when he went to remove her underwear, but at the last moment, he jumped away from her as kunai were whipped at his hands. She yelped as the kunai flew past her, but exhaled in relief.

“Told you.” She stiffened once again, however, when she turned her head to see him standing to her left. He was soaking wet.

“Neji! What the hell are you doing?!”

“Being the knight in shining armor, of course.” Dai answered instead with a smirk, “Well, Hyuuga-san, it--”

Neji slammed his palm into Dai’s chest and rammed his knee into Dai’s stomach, sending the man into the wall behind him. At this, the chain around Tenten’s wrists disintegrated into soil and she quickly pulled her pants back up. When she looked back up, Dai was now on the offensive and managed to back Neji up to the waterfall where he had entered the cave. “Neji!”

Hakke Rokujuyon Sho!” Tenten watched as Neji slammed his fists repeatedly into Dai’s body, moving him across the cave floor. “…Thirty-two points, sixty-four points!” He finished with a two-handed slam to Dai’s chest, sending the man crashing into the waterfall. Neji spent no time on checking the man and quickly made his way to her. “Are you hurt?” He asked coolly while slamming his fist into the earth that surrounded her feet. The clay crumbled away and she managed to yank her feet up.

“No, I’m okay.” She looked to the entrance and sighed in relief to see Kiba and Lee dragging the men’s bodies away from the cave. Neji glanced at her and she stood up. He followed suit and quickly examined her body, just to make sure.

“Did he…?” He couldn’t finish the question. She looked away.

“No. You…Got here just in time.” As she turned back towards him, she saw his eyes widen. He shot his arm out to her but she had already sensed him. She ducked as Dai tried to catch her in a headlock and dropped down low, swinging her leg behind her. She tripped Dai off his feet and he fell onto his back roughly. She swung around and pressed her foot against his throat, “Bastard.”

“Tenten, wait!” He had spotted the explosive note before her and grabbed her by the waist. They jumped behind a wide formation of stalagmites and Neji forced Tenten’s head down with his as Dai’s body exploded. Dust and fire gusted through the cave, and the two had to dig their feet into the earth to be kept from moving into the giant fireball. Tenten didn’t realize until after the fire had subsided that Neji had kept a tight grip on her waist.

The fire fizzled out to small embers lying on the cave’s floor, and Tenten leaned her head back against the stalagmites in exhaustion and relief. “That was a close one.” She turned her head towards Neji, “Thanks. I owe you double now.” He had leaned his head against the rock formation as well and exhaled.

“You really are a terrible hostage. Kiba had to use Akamaru to find your scent.” Tenten laughed tiredly.

“You were supposed to stick to the plan, like we always do.” Neji glanced at her.

“We didn’t think you were going to be the hostage.”

“What difference does it make?” He did not reply. “Although, I have to admit that I’m amazingly glad you didn’t stick to the plan.” She sighed and moved to stand.

“Wait, let the fires die out some more. Your sandals will melt into the soles of your feet.” Neji said and she remained seated next to him.

“I hope Kiba and Lee got out of the way in time. So, how did you revise the plan?”

“Lee and Kiba were to attack the two outside and I found where the water entered the cave. Shikamaru used a Genjutsu to shield the fight from you and Dai and I entered through the waterfall.” He glanced at her, “Naturally, Shikamaru thought of it all.”

Tenten nodded, “I’ll have to thank him as well.” She pondered for a moment before frowning, “Now that I think about it, Shikamaru really should have come through the waterfall instead. He could have manipulated Dai’s shadow earlier.” She stopped and noticed the very small, almost invisible down curve of Neji’s lips, “Not that I didn’t think you could do it.”

“I volunteered.” He replied stiffly, crossing his arms over his chest. “If I had known you would have preferred Shikamaru, I would have remained silent.”

“Why would you volunteer? It would have made more sense for you to direct Shikamaru using your Byakugan. I’m just pointing this all out for next time.” She added gently, not wanting to insult her teammate and friend. When he turned his head away from her, she rolled her eyes and examined the ground. The fires had finally burned out. “It looks safe to move. Let’s regroup. Dai’s body is useless now.”

As she once again moved to get up, however, Neji firmly placed his hand on her shoulder, “Wait.” He was still looking away and she frowned.

“What? Are you hurt?”

“No. I want you to know, that I volunteered because I believed I could protect you the best. But after what you said, I realized that you were right.” He finally looked at her, “I won’t let my pride jeopardize your safety ever again.”

She stared at him with her mouth partially open. It was not until now that she realized how close their bodies were, and that if she moved just another inch, they would be on top of each other. If she moved just another inch, they would be much more than what they already were. She wasn’t sure whether or not she could move. “Neji…”

He moved an inch and pressed his forehead against hers. At the touch she moved away out of surprise, but relaxed when he looked straight at her.


“Neji, Tenten? Hello?” They fell apart, Tenten falling out of Neji’s lap and Neji scrambling back and hitting his head against the cave wall. Scowling, Neji briskly stood while rubbing his head to see Kiba and Lee entering the cave.


“God, we just wanted to see if you two were,” Kiba paused when he noticed the two’s flushed cheeks and his mouth grew into a sly smirk, “alright…”

“We’re fine.” Tenten replied quickly, standing up. “Where’s Shikamaru?”

“Getting the bodies ready for transportation.” Lee also eyed the two suspiciously, “Are you two okay?”


“Let’s head back, then. Tsunade’s waiting.” Neji and Tenten followed Lee and Kiba out of the cave, continuously glancing at each other. When the other two weren’t looking, Neji leaned towards Tenten.

“Will you have dinner with me some time?” He asked quietly, and she smiled when she noticed that his fingers were flexing: a nervous habit of his.


“Friday at seven?”

“It’s a date.” They whispered to each other quickly before stepping away. On the way home, only Shikamaru noticed the extra step in Tenten’s walk and Neji’s overly stoic façade.

So predictable.

Part 11

Tenten stumbled as she helped Neji home.

“Let me walk.” Neji said quickly, but Tenten kept her warm around his waist and he kept her right arm over her shoulder. She stopped to shift more of his weight onto her hip before continuing towards his estate.

“I got you.” Neji looked away from her. Even at nineteen, he still depended on her to help him home when he pushed too harder or, in this case, when she accidentally hit his blind spot. In all the years they’ve trained together, Tenten had knowingly hit his blind spot only twice and unintentionally only once. This was the first time.

Tenten’s legs buckled once again under his weight, and he quickly lifted himself away from her, only to hiss as his beyond sore back and leg muscles locked. She caught him before he fell onto his knees and inhaled, “Almost there.” They trudged on and did not look at each other, as usual. Both were exhausted and sore, and both tried to hide it. Tonight, Neji stole a glance at Tenten’s profile before quickly averting his eyes.

It was on these nights that he admired her the most.

They made it to the outside gates of the Hyuuga estate, where Neji leaned against the metal as soon as Tenten allowed him to do so. She looked past the fence, “Can you make it inside?”

“Yes. Thank you.” Instead of leaving, they continued to stand outside. Tenten stared at the ground while Neji watched the lone lighted window inside the estate. He knew what awaited him inside, and was sure that Tenten knew as well.

“I’m sorry.” He only looked at her in surprise because of the crack in her voice. Still staring at the ground, Tenten pushed her palms into her eyes, but tears still leaked out of the corners. “I didn’t…” He could only watch as Tenten continued to cry quietly, her chest occasionally heaving from inward cries. She had no reason to cry; she had missed any vital organs and tendons.

“I’m fine, Tenten.” Sure the kunai had pierced his back deeply, but she had removed it and bandaged the wound. The shuriken would only paralyze his right leg for a few hours and she had the antidote for the poison that the spearhead injected into his calf. There was no real harm done. Even so, she continued to cry and Neji was forced to do something that he had only thought of. He carefully wrapped an arm around her shoulders and brought her to his chest.

She stopped crying after a few minutes and hurriedly wiped her face with the back of her hand. “I didn’t mean to…I didn’t even think about it.” He removed his arm from her and she stepped back. She inhaled and calmed herself down to almost normal. “It’s the first and last time.”

“As long as you don’t cry, I don’t mind it.” Neji said quietly but honestly. She stared at him and he realized what he had said. He looked away, “I don’t have time to always comfort you.” She relaxed and wiped a final tear away.

“You’re right. Don’t worry, this is the first and last time you’ll see me crying.” She glanced at the estate, “It looks like someone is waiting up for you.” Neji did not have to look.

“Goodnight.” Tenten smiled and waved before leaving. Neji watched her back for a few moments before entering the estate and using the high stone wall surrounding the area to support his weight as he walked to his room. He did not even pass the lighted room before he was spotted.

“Neji, sit.” Neji held Hiashi’s gaze as he slowly entered the now familiar bedroom and sat on a cushion opposite of Hiashi. Hiashi observed his nephew closely before closing his eyes, “We’ve had this talk many of times, Neji. Yet, I’ve never waited this long for you to come in.” He opened his eyes narrowly, “This is becoming a hassle for me.”

“I’m sorry, Hiashi-sama.” Hiashi sighed.

“No, you aren’t. If you were sorry as you continue to say you are, we wouldn’t be having the same conversation over and over again.”


“I’m forced to do this, Neji. I will have to inform the gate guards that she is no longer allowed on the premises.” Neji’s shoulders stiffened. “I will not tolerate this outright disobedience from you. I have told you countless times to not be involved with that girl, and yet almost every night you bring her to the gates. I was forced to tell the elders that she is a beggar whom you take pity on.”

“She’s my teammate.” Neji softly interjected, “Tell them the truth.” Hiashi chuckled.

“Do you really expect them to believe that? Teammates do not spend as much time together as you two do.”

“She’s a friend.”

“What about Lee? Naruto? Shikamaru? You hardly spend as much time with them as you do with her.” Neji backed down and lowered his eyes.

“That’s because…She’s my friend and teammate—“ His tongue was tied.

“Isn’t Lee your friend and teammate?”

“Yes, but—“

“You want me to tell the elders the truth, but you can’t even acknowledge what it is yourself.” Neji inhaled through his nose and closed his eyes while his hands formed fists.

“Tenten is my companion.” Hiashi blinked. “I admire her and have great respect for her.” Neji stood the soreness in his muscles now gone. “With all due respect Hiashi-sama, I will continue to see Tenten as much as I please. Give the elders my regards.” Hiashi lowered his head and furrowed his brow as Neji walked to the door.

“…Next time, just begin with that statement. This conversation was much too long.”

“Yes, Hiashi-sama.”

“You say the same thing every time, Neji.”

“As do you, Hiashi-sama.” Neji slid the door open, “Goodnight, Hiashi-sama.” Hiashi remained seated and closed his eyes.


A few weeks passed and Neji pushed himself to the breaking point yet again. He collapsed on the grass and lay there as Tenten ran over. “Neji!”

He ignored her and instead stared up at the sky. The setting sun painted the sky with pastel oranges and pinks. What made the sky truly beautiful was the addition of Tenten’s face as she hovered over him. Neji mentally saved the image of her concerned face with the setting sun background before looking at her. There was dirt on her cheek, and he subconsciously wiped it away with his thumb before letting his arm fall by his head. “I think that’s enough for today.”

“Here, I’ll help you home.” He shook his head and remained on his back.

“I want to stay here.” Tenten frowned.

“For the whole night?”


“Why?” He did not answer because he was afraid of her reaction. She waited for a few minutes before sighing and sitting next to him. “I’ll just have to stay with you then.” She leaned back on her hands and stared straight up at the sky while he watched.

“Promise me,” She looked down when he spoke, “that on nights like these, you won’t try to make me go to the estate.” She laughed.

“Like I could make you do anything.” He looked up at her and her smile faded. She turned away, “I promise.” He watched her profile for a moment before looking back up at the sky.

If this is how I have to live...’

He sat up.

Hiding from my own blood and facing disownment…’

She glanced at him and noticed his gaze. They slowly leaned forward at the exact same moment.

Just to be with you…

Their foreheads touched and he stared, eyes half-lidded, at her while she shyly looked at the ground. Carefully, she moved her head towards him, then back again, unsure. He remained still and only moved to finally press his lips against hers when she moved back in.

‘Then I'm perfectly content.

Part 12

Hyuuga Neji stared at the blank piece of paper, his six-year-old mind still processing what the teacher had said. He observed the boy on his left, who was mindlessly scribbling colors on the paper. Neji then looked to the girl on his right and watched her draw circles of varying sizes and mediocre flowers. He finally looked at his own paper, and grabbed a black crayon from the neat row he had assembled.

Enrolled in the Academy first by then his uncle, Neji was beginning his first year on schedule. His father had been against the Academy, but his untimely death is what forced the Hyuuga elders and Hiashi to enroll Neji. On the first day, Neji had not said a word to anyone and caused the teachers to be concerned. They left him be, however, and Neji was nonetheless numbly content in sitting and looking at kunai and shuriken, but never touching. Teachers forbade the children to touch any type of weaponry until at least eight years of age. There was always one girl, Neji noticed, that always got close to grabbing a kunai before the teacher caught and scolded her.

But Neji was not interested in weapons. His father had told him that his own eyes were a weapon; Neji did not need anything else. So when that girl was caught once again, Neji did not look up from his paper. He carefully drew a straight, horizontal line across the middle of the paper. He sat, stumped on what to do next.

He observed the children by him and drew a circle above the line. He then drew an upright rectangle and surrounded the top with a curly line. “Neji, what are you drawing?” Neji looked up at the teacher and looked back down at the paper. Iruka patiently waited for an answer, but none came. His smile faltered for a moment before he picked the paper up, “Oh, it’s a field! It’s very nice, Neji. Such…Straight lines.”

“Thank you.” It was then that he noticed the girl obsessed with the weapons was looking at him. He stared back until she stuck her tongue out and looked back at her desk, hunching over. Iruka noticed and, hoping it would help Neji break out of his shell, nudged him towards the girl.

“Why don’t you say ‘hi’?”

“No.” Iruka sighed.

“Tenten,” The girl looked up, “come here and meet someone.” She looked at Neji.

“No!” Neji frowned and Iruka inwardly kicked himself. He did not push the matter, however, and went back to observing the rest of the children. Neji and Tenten, however, remained where they were and stared at each other. Finally, Tenten looked away to go back to her paper while Neji went back to his own drawing.

Neji added clouds to his sky and even placed a stick figure on the field. He smiled to himself and secretly hoped Iruka would stop by again. He enjoyed the praise. “Hey.” Hopeful, he looked up, only to be disappointed. Tenten stood in front of him, holding her paper to her chest.


“Let’s see whose is better!” Tenten put her drawing next to Neji, and he almost laughed out of pity. Her picture was of four stick figures with legs too long and heads too large. Her colors blurred into each other and none were contained in their rightful lines. Her sky was purple, her grass red, and her sun pink.

“Mine is.” Neji said without a doubt, “Yours is stupid.” Tenten scowled.

“Yours is stupid!”

“No it’s not.”

“Yes it is!”

“No it’s not.

“Yes, it is.” Neji blinked out of surprise; no one ever disagreed with him. He then narrowed his eyes and huffed out a hot breath of air.

“You’re dumb.”

“No, you’re dumb.” His mind blanked; what other insults were there? Tenten stuck her tongue out at him and out of instinct he stuck his out as well. She then did the unthinkable: she pushed Neji.

“Don’t push me!” Neji shoved Tenten back, causing her to stumble backwards. This only made her more infuriated.

“Don’t push me!”

“Neji, Tenten!” Before Iruka could split the two apart, Tenten had slammed her forehead against Neji’s and both fell back onto their rears. In disbelief, Iruka could only watch as Neji held his forehead, biting back tears while Tenten sniffled. “Oh, no.” Tenten broke and began to bawl while Neji only began to sniffle. “You two!”

Twenty minutes later, with Neji on Iruka’s lap and Tenten on Ebisu’s, they were questioned. “He called my drawing stupid.” Tenten accused while Neji scowled.

“It is.”

“No it’s not!”

“Tenten, calm down. And Neji, that’s no way to treat someone!” Iruka scolded as he placed Neji on the ground. “I know how to settle this. Ebisu, go get me their drawings.” Tenten was placed on the floor as well and looked away from Neji. “I’ll decide whether or not the drawings are ‘stupid’.”

The drawings were once again placed next to each other and Iruka examined them. “I see…Hm, well, I’ve decided.” Neji and Tenten glanced at each other. “Neither of these drawings is stupid.”


“Neji, Tenten, come here and look.” Iruka pointed to Neji’s drawing, “Neji, your drawing is full of straight lines and perfect circles. That’s hard to accomplish!” Neji nodded and looked at Tenten who scowled. “But, Tenten’s has so much color! See how she mixes the red and blue to make purple? I think,” Iruka took the pictures and handed them back, “Neji’s picture would be better with Tenten’s color, and Tenten’s picture would be better with Neji’s structure.” Neji looked at his picture again. He had only used the black crayon. He had never thought to use another color.

“Now, you guys are in time-out for the rest of the school day!” Neji and Tenten both blanched.

“Why?!” Iruka poked both of them in the foreheads.

“Neji, you pushed Tenten. Tenten, you head-butted Neji. That’s called assault.” Iruka then left the two puzzled children in the corner of the room to lead the others outside for lunch and recess. Neji shifted his feet and Tenten played with her hair. It wasn’t until then that Neji noticed she had brown hair like him. Her eyes also matched the color of her hair and he looked away before she caught him.

“Um, I like your crayons.” Neji looked at the neat row of crayons he had made earlier that day. “You have a lot of colors.” He said nothing and sat down. Tenten sat next to him. “Can I use them?”

“No.” She ignored him and grabbed a pink one.

“Can I see your drawing?”

“No.” She grabbed it from him and when he tried to take it back, she hit him with the crayon. He watched her carefully and gasped out of horror when she began to color his picture. “Stop that, it’s mine!”

“Wait, look.” He looked and saw a pink stick-figure next to his own. “See? I put me in there.” She then grabbed the brown crayon and drew hair on the pink and black stick-figures. “Look, it’s us!” She handed him a blue crayon, “We can draw together. I’ll teach you how to color, and you’ll teach me how to draw nice.”

Neji stared at her incredulously. Why would he even speak to her after she head-butted him? There was no reason to. So when Neji nodded his head and took the crayon to begin coloring in their shared sky, he decided that he didn’t need a reason to talk to Tenten. After all, she didn’t need a reason to color him and his world, but she did so anyways.

“We can color like this forever, Neji.”

And Neji believed that they would.

Part 13 (Last part)

Tenten scowled as she followed her teammate Hyuuga Neji to their usual training location. “I don’t understand why we have to start training so early.”

“There are less people in the morning.” Neji was right: there was no one else in the training fields at dawn. Tenten sighed and continued to follow; she had expected his answer. There was no need in her asking, anyhow; they had been training together every weekday morning for the past three years. Her logical reasoning would not change their schedule any time soon.

The dead leaves crunched underneath her feet as she moved to set up the area. She placed the bags against a tree, hung the basket of food from the tree’s branch, and handed Neji the two sand bags she had brought. Routinely, Tenten began her stretches while Neji broke off two, thick tree branches to hold the sand bags up, transforming them into cheap punching bags. As she bent at her hips to touch the ground, she watched him stretch his calves. It was a cooler day, so he wore pants instead of his usual training gear. She mindlessly thought that he would take them off from the heat after their second sparring round. He always did.

Tenten thought it was cute how Neji would wander into the woods and change. When she had told him that she could just look away, she noticed the red tinge in his cheeks. She found his physical shyness amusing and, in a way, endearing. She smiled to herself as she sat on the ground to stretch out her legs. Neji had his back to her as he began to roll his neck while stretching his arms over his head. “You didn’t stretch your arms yet, Tenten.”

“I have a knot from yesterday, so I’ll be a little longer.”

“Hn.” She chuckled to herself and remained on the forest ground to stretch her arms. She frowned as she stretched her arms behind her, feeling the knot in her shoulder tighten before finally relaxing. Neji was already lightly hitting his sand bag when she finally stood. She found her target already hanging from a tree, compliments of her teammate, and went to their bags. Carelessly, she whipped a kunai at Neji over her shoulder, not bothering to look back when he spun on his heels to knock it down. “Did you look?”

“Nope.” She felt his silent nod and continued to rummage through her weapons’ case. For the next hour, Tenten flawlessly marked her target with kunai from up to 100 yards away while Neji pulverized his bag with his fists and feet. When Neji’s bag broke open, sand spilling onto the ground, Tenten switched her aim at the last moment to send three kunai and two shuriken at his face. He quickly ducked and knocked down the chakra-powered shuriken that followed him.

“Ready?” Tenten smirked, causing Neji to blink. The shuriken he had knocked down sprang back up at his face and he only had to time to move his arm in front of them. Neji calmly picked the two metal pieces out of his skin before throwing them back down and smashing them with the heel of his foot. “Those are new.”

“I thought you might like them.” Neji let out a chuckle before sprinting towards her. For the next two hours, the two engaged in seemingly endless hand-to-hand combat, Tenten emerging with just a little more bruises and scrapes than Neji. With a quick palm-up hit to the chest, Tenten was slammed up against a tree. Coughing, she slid down to the ground and wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “You broke right through my block.”

Neji stood in front of her, not breathing quite as hard but still panting. “Get up.” She blinked before narrowing her eyes at him. He tried to remain strong, but finally sighed and relaxed his shoulders. “It is noon…” Happily, Tenten accepted his hand as he helped her up. For them, a break was always scheduled at noon unless she was willing to wait another two hours. With Tenten, that was rarely the case. She valued her lunch, which she packed strategically and meticulously every day, and especially enjoyed eating it with Neji.

She removed the basket from the tree branch and sat under the tree, taking out her chicken teriyaki bento box. She glanced at Neji, who bit into an apple silently. “Do you want some of my bento?” She asked sweetly, smiling when he shook his head. Tenten dug into her lunch, watching Neji’s glances out of the corner of her eye. It was like this every time. Today, though, she decided to make Neji wait. A few minutes went by, and Neji had finished his apple while Tenten was slowly picking away at her bento box.

There was a gurgling sound and she glanced at him. Embarrassed, Neji gently held his stomach and looked away. She laughed and reached into her basket, pulling out another prepared bento box. “I tell you to help yourself every day.”

“Thank you.” Tenten smiled to herself. They finished their lunches in the next twenty minutes and spent the remaining two hours before the training fields began to get crowded sparring their favorite way: Tenten using her weapons summons and Neji using his perfect defense and offense. Just as the voices of other people grew closer, Tenten successfully pinned Neji to the ground, shoving her forearm against his throat.

“I win today.” She had her knees on both sides of his waist and her other hand was positioned next to his head to balance herself above him. Neji stared up at her.

“I didn’t tell you how small my blind spot had gotten.” She grinned.

“I just kept hitting until I found it.” He shifted underneath her and she stood up. “Don’t worry; no one else would’ve been able to find it.” He stood as well and frowned to himself.

“Hn.” They picked up her weapons in silence, put the empty bento boxes back in the basket, and shrugged their bags onto their shoulders. Neji heaved Tenten’s sand bag over his shoulder as well while Tenten carried the empty sack that remained of Neji’s bag. “Are you sure your father’s okay with us using these?” Neji asked as they walked out of the training fields and towards her house.

“My dad’s retired, he doesn’t use them anymore.” Tenten glanced at Neji, “Anyway, we’re sixteen. We’re supposed to be rebellious to our parents, right?”

“I’ll pay for a replacement bag.” She sighed, but inwardly giggled. Neji’s acting so gentlemanly always made her heart (and cheeks) warm. The two continued to walk to Tenten’s house, occasionally stopping to say hello to mutual friends or not-so mutual friends. Tenten’s cheeks had burned with embarrassment when while she was talking to a boy she found quite appealing, Neji decided to sigh repeatedly and mumble under his breath about the time. Nevertheless, the two made it to her doorstep at the usual time.

Neji grunted as he set the sand bag on the side of the house while Tenten fumbled in her bag for her keys. “Thanks.” Finally finding them, she unlocked the front door. The basket banged into the doorway as she turned around to face him. “Same time tomorrow?” Neji nodded and she smiled, “Okay, see you then.”

“Ah, wait.” The door almost closed, Tenten pushed it back open to look at him. He looked away from her and focused on the sand bag on the side of the house. “You don’t have to make me bento boxes.” She set the basket and her bag on the floor behind her and stepped back outside.

“What, you don’t like how I prepare them?”

“No, they’re fine.” Neji glanced at her, “Just, you don’t have to make them.” As always, Tenten felt her cheeks grow hot.

“I…Like making you lunch.” He blinked at her, “It gives me something to do in the morning.” She added.

“Well, thank you.” They stood there awkwardly. Tenten waited, but he said nothing. Sighing, she stepped back into the doorway.

“Bye, Neji—“

“To repay you, I’ll make your bento tomorrow.” She felt her stomach lurch and her heart jump into her throat. Neji kept his hands at his sides, but flexed his fingers nervously. “It’s…The least I can do.”

“…Okay.” She smiled. “No wasabi, I hate it.” He was caught off-guard at her calm reaction, but nodded dumbly before departing. She chuckled to herself and slipped inside her house, closing the door behind her.

Today was a little different than most days. I think I like this little change up.


NOTE: In Japan, preparing a bento box is an act of love. Bento made especially as a romantic gesture is called aiso bento.

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