|Seasons of Love
Author: DragonStorm85 PM
Four-shot. In measuring the experiences of a lifetime, Shino remembers their journey in random instances. But Tenten likes to associate the milestones of their long relationship with the changing seasons.Rated: Fiction K - English - Romance - Tenten & Shino A. - Chapters: 4 - Words: 9,680 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 18 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 01-21-10 - Published: 12-13-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5578909
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Character(s): Tenten, Aburame Shino; brief mentions of Hyuuga Hinata, Inuzuka Kiba, Orochimaru, Uchiha Madara, Rock Lee, Maito Gai, Haruno Sakura, Sarutobi Hiruzen, Aburame Shibi, Hyuuga Neji
Pairing(s): Implied Shino/Tenten
Disclaimer: I own nothing but these words.
Note: Part four of four. Written for the ShinoTen FC fanfic contest held over at NarutoForums.
Dedicated to: All you ShinoTen fans out there!
When Tenten first realized she was in love, there had been no doubt. Granted, it was not like she had imagined the moment would be like. That it was certainly unlike any fairytale scenario she had heard the other kunoichi describe. In fact, it had been over a trivial matter, one that the kunoichi felt a bit foolish about afterwards. There were no flowers. No candy. No songbirds in the background chirping out a soundtrack. And no overly romantic gesture from either of the parties involved. Or, at least, not by normal standards. Just a dark walk back to her apartment on a chilly winter night. And a boy offering a girl his outer jacket to keep herself warm from the cool winds. Which was acceptable given the factors. And it was the first indicator that, perhaps, Shino felt the same.
In all the years that they had known each other, the young man had never taken his jacket off for anyone or any reason let alone offer it to another. It was his protection, after all. His barrier that kept him protected from the harsh realities of the world if only on nothing more than in symbolism. Nothing mattered as much as what was underneath the fabric. Nothing outside the confines of his clothing would be able to hurt him. The kikai would not allow it. To take off even one layer was like stripping away another brick from his self-imposed wall of solitude.
Not the first step towards becoming a social butterfly. And certainly not the last. But all the same, it had been an important one.
Ultimately, she would later realize, the act had been extraordinarily simple. And a perfectly fitting end to their long and unconventional journey.
"Thank you for coming."
It had been the end of what became a most interesting night of celebration. One that Shino had neither anticipated nor wanted. Against his teammate's wishes -- despite Hinata's insistence that the young Aburame would most likely wish to spend his evening otherwise -- Kiba had taken it upon himself to grace the young shinobi with a party for his twenty-fifth birthday. And to commemorate their long years of survival. Because after the seemingly endless battle against Akatsuki and the remnants of Orochimaru's regime -- after all the years of struggle that the entire shinobi nation had suffered in what would later be named the Fourth Great Shinobi War -- things had finally turned for the better. An end to all the chaos was in sight. A fortunate stroke of luck and resilience, Tenten thought. Because after ten years of fighting, there were not many of them left. On either side.
"I'm just glad I was able to make it," she murmured softly, casting a small sidelong glance in his direction and offering a faint smile in return, "I would hate to have missed it."
"You should have stayed in bed," the young man said simply. Evenly and devoid of emotion. Which only made his words all the sharper and almost as crisp as the air itself.
He was right of course, Tenten thought. And made no attempt to argue against the point. It would have been a fruitless battle. After all, the young woman was still recovering from her last mission in Iwa. Where she had been charged with leading troops against the Five-Tailed Beast that Madara had unleashed there. As a newly appointed Jounin, it had only been the most recent among a number of battles in the west that were placed in her care. And up until a few days ago, the kunoichi had been bed-ridden with multiple fractures to the ribs and right leg, an injury that could be easily seen in the slight limp in her step when she walked.
Certainly, not her best encounter against enemy forces and hardly ideal conditions for attending social gatherings, she would admit. Especially ones organized by an Inuzuka. And Tenten had weighed the options extensively before settling on a final decision. But even she knew that there was little need for consideration. Because one crucial factor canceled out all of the dangers and made it well worth the risks.
"I missed you," she admitted, shifting her glance to observe the other's reaction from the edge of her vision, "I hadn't seen you in a few days."
As expected, the young Aburame remained relatively neutral and quiet by default, giving no clear sign of what he thought one way or the other about her comment. And to most others, it may have simply appeared to be Shino's silent attempt to ignore the subject all together. A blatant snub to the obvious sentiment that came with the words. But there was no hiding the way the young man's head dipped behind the high collar of his underjacket in a shy manner. Or the way his natural and easy stride nearly faltered and slowed just a fraction at the thought. All things that only brought a light quirk to Tenten's lips once they registered in her mind.
"I know I should be resting, but I was going crazy just laying in bed all day while Lee and Gai-sensei took turns taking care of me."
"They are concerned and wished to aid you in your recovery."
"They always have and always will be. That much won't change. And it was very sweet of them." Smiling fondly for a moment at the thought, the young woman finally turned her full attention to the other as she continued. "But there's only so much encouragement and enthusiasm a girl can take before she snaps."
Indeed, it had been very kind and sweet of them to care for her and keep the kunoichi company while she tackled the last leg of the healing process. And it was a constant that Tenten would always appreciate for the pure habitual nature of the gesture. -- During wartime when unexpected surprises and unanticipated turns governed their lives, the routine became more and more of a luxury that not many could find or afford. -- But every shinobi held their limits. And Tenten was only a few youthful speeches away from hers.
"Besides, I'm a lot better than when they released me from the hospital," the kunoichi added, her mood relatively light, "Sakura and the nurses did a good job in taking care of me."
Here, she caught a slight shift in Shino's posture, the gleam of the moonlight a bit more prominent in the smooth surface of the young man's dark shades. He had adjusted his head in her direction. Just enough to keep her shadow within his sights. Indicating that he was still worried about her. "You are well, then?"
"Muscles are still a bit stiff, and it'll be a few more weeks before I'm back to where I was before," she replied. And at that, Tenten rotated her shoulders a bit to show the range of movement she had been able to gain since leaving the hospital. In a wordless assurance to him. "But I wasn't gonna let that keep me from your party."
That answer, and the comment that followed, seemed to satisfy him. Enough for Shino to resume facing forward once more, the outline of his silhouette nearly disappearing completely without the moon's reflection to give detail to his darker clothes. Fitting, Tenten thought, and could only do the same as a small smile formed at the irony. Because it was a shinobi's job and ambition to be unseen. To be forgotten and blend in to obscurity. That much, the both of them had mastered. To an extent. Because it was difficult to disappear completely skill and prowess became common knowledge. Especially in recent years with all the fighting both had been engaged in during this war.
It was their job and their profession, yes. But it should not be their entire life.
And then she felt his larger hand glide in to grip around hers. "It was not intentional."
She felt a small thrill of warmth radiate out from his palm at the contact, and Tenten could hardly keep her heart from racing a half-beat faster once she registered Shino's presence around her again. After all these years, the young Aburame was still not one to indulge in public displays of affection. Even in the dark of night when eyes were less likely to pry into their private lives. And the kunoichi suspected that he never would be. And Tenten had already accustomed herself to the idea. Found it a rather endearing quality to Shino's unique character that she would never change. Because the kunoichi had grown fond of his quiet company. Of his introverted tendencies. Had learned to rely on his constant silent support to carry her through the days of chaos and destruction.
"I had not intended to neglect you for so long."
"It's ok. I know you wouldn't have without good reason."
Still, it was always a nice surprise and a secret joy to Tenten when he occasionally broke that cardinal rule. Because it was his personal belief that such instances should remain so: a private moment between the two it involved. Which had been her first clue that something was troubling him.
"It's the Clan Elders again, isn't it?"
A harsh exhale of breath -- an Aburame scoff -- and a small twitch of his head marked Shino's irritation on the subject matter. "...Yes."
A sentiment that seemed to be shared by the kikai as several began to skitter out from the cuff of his sleeve, slowly making their way down the young man's forearm towards where their two hands were linked together. And as the kunoichi felt the other's grip tighten, she could only watch with a myriad of emotions while the tiny beetles continued their journey.
"I take it they still don't approve."
Breathing out in what constituted as a strained sigh by his standards, the young man kept his gaze forward in response. Although the picture of calm, it was clear that he was anything but. Swarm and hive were linked, after all. And it was hard not to take note of the kikai's agitation. It was not until the little bugs continued the trek across their joined thumbs and around her won wrist that Tenten felt Shino's hand relax once more. As if the physical connection with both him and his insects was reassurance enough to steady the shinobi's tense nerves. "Their opinions hardly matter where we are concerned."
"...But they do matter concerning the future of the Aburame." And it was with those words, that Tenten halted in her steps, drawing his attention as well from the act.
Although it hurt her to admit it, the Elders of the Aburame Clan had the final say in who Shino could and would potentially marry. That they had every right and authority to forcibly keep her away from him if they deemed her unworthy of the position as future matriarch of the family. Their concerns were understandable, from what she could see. Although from a long line of noble shinobi that had served loyally in the village, Tenten had been raised as a relative peasant. As the daughter of a weapon-smith instead of the granddaughter of the Sandaime. And while civilian blood would have had little effect if mixed with that that of an Aburame, Tenten possessed a portion of the Sarutobi bloodline running through her veins. A relative unknown as far as compatibility with the clan went.
"They have their reasons, Shino," she added, almost as an afterthought.
And it was a concept that he made no show in hiding his disagreement in as the young man turned his head a fraction to the side. A physical show of avoiding her concerned and piercing gaze. "There is no reason for them not to approve of you."
Following the move, Tenten shifted to remain in his field of vision. If he would not look at her, then the kunoichi was determined to stay a constant presence. "I think they'd disagree."
It was one matter to have the approval of the Clan's leader. And, indeed, Shibi had shown his acceptance to their relationship long ago. But a majority of the decisions made were left up to the Aburame Clan Elders, much in the same way that the Hyuuga Council presided over the whole of Neji and Hinata's family. Shino's father only held a fraction of influence over the governing of the clan, and only as much as the Elders were willing to give. So long as they deemed his actions and decisions beneficial to the Abruame hive. It was effective in keeping the control of the family from residing on one singular person's judgment. But it made things exceedingly difficult to change clan policies when it became necessary, And the act of following their lead all the more habitual.
"I have... always done what the Elders asked of me."
"I know... and I love you for fighting so hard against this." And there was a split-second pause as Tenten realized what she had just said before the weight of the conversation pressed her steadily forward, masking over the words as quickly as they could be spoken. "But for the good of your clan, don't throw away your right to become heir for my sake."
"...I am doing what is good for the clan."
It was said with such determination and confidence -- such conviction -- that Tenten could find no cause within herself to disagree or argue against. Although that did not keep her from showing a grain of doubt. Because even though she knew Shino to be one of the most level-headed and intelligent individuals she had ever known, he was also susceptible to a biased opinion. "I hope you're right."
The two left the conversation at that. And after a brief moment of pause -- a brief exchange of what she could only assume were glances between them -- they both turned to continue their trek through the empty streets of the village towards towards their destination. The night had grown later than expected during their discussion, and the kunoichi was certain that Shino wanted nothing more than to leave the topic for another time. Such matters should be discussed behind closed doors and thick walls, after all.
And given just how much time the two had spent apart in the last few weeks, it had been nice to just be with him, even in perfect silence.
The moment was short-lived, however, as Tenten's apartment complex soon came into view. Though relatively dim compared to other streets, the glow of the porchlight gave a sort of softening edge to the surrounding shadows while they approached through the alleyway. And though she was not often one to take notice of such trivial things, the kunoichi could not help but stop across the street and admire the simplicity of the scene for a moment before moving to remove and return Shino's jacket to him.
Only when she held the thick fabric out to him did she see the faint smile pulling at his thin lips. A sight that had Tenten lifting her brow in suspicion, amusement, and curiosity. "...What?"
"You said you loved me." With that, the young man easily slipped his arms through the sleeve of the outerjacket as if nothing had occurred. As if he had not discovered her closely guarded secret.
"...So what if I did?" And despite the playful smile and child-like gleam of mischief in the kunoichi's eyes, there was no ignoring the heated blush that dusted her cheeks. Although, if asked about it later, Tenten resigned to denying the claim and blaming it on the poor lighting. "You've probably known for months."
"Yes. But it was... pleasurable to hear you say so."
She could find no response to give him in reaction. Could find no thought beyond the warmth that seemed to bloom in her chest and bleed out through the young woman's cheeks at the thought. Perhaps, she decided, it was better to leave things there for another time as well. After all, the fact that he expressed a certain amount of joy in hearing her admit her affections for him meant that he shared the sentiment. And that was enough for Tenten to last a lifetime. So it was with that concept that the kunoichi leaned in to pressed a light and chaste kiss against the other's lips.
"Thank you for walking me home," she whispered softly. And then swiftly turned on the balls of her heels to cross the street.
Already and almost instantly, Tenten found herself missing the heavy weight of the shinobi's jacket. Remembered how warm and comforting it had been to have it hang loosely around her smaller frame during their walk from the Abruame compound to her apartment building. As if it were engulfing her in his presence and protection just as much as it protected Shino during his daily life. A strange concept, perhaps, but a preferred scenario to the chilly wind that caressed across the kunoichi's skin now without the fabric to keep the heat insulated. And in the end, she supposed, it was the sentiment behind the act and the feeling of possessing something that belonged to him Tenten missed the most.
"You set very high standards for what I should get you for your birthday."
"You have two months," the kunoichi called over her shoulder, an air of playful mischief laced in her tone, "I'm sure you'll come up with something."
Although, the young woman thought as she stepped onto the porch, the remaining kikai that still lingered around her wrist was compensation enough. For now.