Final chapter.. I won't bother you with long notes here lol.

Naruto and its characters do not belong to me. This fic is rated for mature audiences only - read at your own discretion.

Complexities of Blackmail

Chapter 32: The New Beginning

Konoha, Mar 24, 2031, 0708 hrs

Ino is still sitting by her bed by the time Tenten feels vaguely like a human again. She squints at the blond, dragging herself up and gulping from the filled cup by her bedside. It feels like there's a boulder in her head and many, many jumping beans in her stomach.

"So... are you ready to spill?" Ino asks wearily. Tenten looks closely at her, noting some shadows under her eyes.

"Ino? What're you doing here?" Tenten mumbles, frowning.

"What were you doing, drinking last night?" Ino snaps, folding her arms. "Neji brought you back here."

Tenten frowns, and winces at the mention of Neji. She pulls her pillow over her face. "How'd he come into the picture?"

"That's what I'd like to find out." Ino clicks her tongue. "I was returning from the cafeteria when I saw him carrying you back to the infirmary."

She grimaces, closing her eyes and trying to remember. Her head pounds. Brief images flit through her mind - plenty of darkness, and maybe a bunch of stars. "I don't remember seeing him."

Ino shakes her head. "'Course you wouldn't, you were drunk."

Did she say anything to Neji while she was drunk? Tenten pulls a face, and wracks her mind. Nothing comes up. She remembers the beer, though. Probably shouldn't drink on that new mission, if her application gets through.

"Did you hear me say anything embarrassing?" she asks Ino, wincing again.

"You called him Neji to his face," Ino answers, rolling her shoulders to stretch them.

"That's all?" Tenten probes. It could've been worse, she supposes.

"That's all I heard, at least," the blond tells her dryly. "I don't know what you said to him while I wasn't around."

"Um. Okay. Thanks." Tenten settles for pressing her face to the firm mattress for a while, willing her headache to go away. "Have I taken an aspirin yet?"

"Yes. Fifteen minutes ago," Ino informs her wryly. "Aren't you glad I'm saving your butt by being your most awesome girlfriend?"

"Yes, I am. Thank you, my Supreme Lady Ino," Tenten mutters in response.

"Speaking of which, Neji actually checked in on you this morning," Ino says.

Tenten lifts the corner of her pillow and looks at her. "What?"

"Neji. He stopped by to see how you were doing." Ino raises a brow at her. "Someone's concerned about you."

"Oh." Tenten feels her cheeks heat, and lowers the pillow to hide her reaction. "I'm glad I didn't see him then."

"He was actually going to visit you last night, from the sound of it." Ino plucks an apple from Tenten's bowl of fruits, heading over to the adjoining bathroom to rinse it. "But he found your empty bed."

"Oops." Tenten cringes. "Did anyone else find out?"

"Apparently not." Ino returns to her seat, crunching into her apple. "I don't know if that's fortunate or otherwise."

"Me neither." Tenten shuts her eyes, slowly getting used to the pounding in her head. Or maybe it's the drug taking effect.

She can hardly believe that Neji tried to visit her. Where does she stand with him? After that day on Aesis, maybe he was visiting as a concerned teammate. Maybe he'd return tonight. Tenten squirms uneasily. She doesn't have anything to say to him.

"He cares about you, you know," Ino says at length, after she's finished her apple. "I mean, I know you've told me what happened - but judging from the way he acted, he cares for you more than he would a 'good fuck', if you ask me."

Tenten winces. "I didn't ask you."

"I'm telling you anyway," Ino informs her. "Besides, he called you 'Tenten' last night. Not 'Lieutenant', mind you."

Tenten thinks she might've stopped breathing. "Um," she says intelligently.

"I agree." Ino grabs another apple, and Tenten hears the water running in the bathroom again. "Think he came around to apologize?"

"I don't know." Tenten scrunches her eyes shut. Her pulse flutters.

"If he does, are you going to make up with him?" Ino settles back into her seat. "Damn, these chairs are a pain to sit in."

"They don't want you sitting around for too long," Tenten answers. "You're supposed to get back to work, is what they're saying."

"Very funny, Ten." She can practically hear Ino rolling her eyes. Ino bites into her second apple. "So, are you going to make up with him?"

"You're building a hypothesis on a hypothesis," Tenten tells her. "I don't do what-ifs."

"And what if I said he's here... right now?" It sounds as if Ino's voice is fading away, distracted, and Tenten freezes, her heart lodging in her throat.

"What?" she squeaks.

"I'm kidding," Ino says a moment later. Tenten pulls her head out from beneath the pillow, just to make sure that it's only her and Ino in the ward. She heaves a sigh when she realizes that the room does only contain two people. "You aren't over him yet."

Tenten cringes. "I am, I am. I so need to be over him."

"Well, have fun convincing yourself," Ino tells her, tossing her apple core into the waste basket. "I need to get a power nap in, and then get ready for work. Unlike some of us, who earned an extra two days of bed rest by getting stupid drunk."

"What?" Tenten yelps, looking at Ino pitifully. "Really?"

The blond nods, pulling the clipboard from the foot of her bed. "Look."

Tenten squints at the tiny words on the forms, making out the crossed-out "5", with a "7" scribbled over it. "Seven days of bed rest?" she groans, counting them off on her fingers. "That's another four days!"

"And I still have to work," Ino tells her dryly. "At least that deep-space mission starts in five days- Oh. Weren't the application results going to be announced today?"

Tenten feels her heart stop. "Where's my computer?" she fumbles.

Ino hands her the device with a shake of her head. "I'll help you with yours after I've checked my email."

"I'm on it," Tenten protests, turning her computer on. She accesses her inbox easily enough, scanning the unread emails for news on the mission. The acceptance email stands right out. "I'm in!"

"So am I!" Ino squeals, leaping up to pull Tenten into a hug. "That's awesome!"

"It is," she agrees, returning the hug.

"Not that you aren't a great friend, Ten, but I gotta see who else is enlisted on this mission," Ino begins, pulling away.

"Ever the consummate gossip." Tenten smiles fondly at the blond, waving as she heads towards the door.

"Talk to you tonight or tomorrow," Ino promises, waving back. "Remember to drink more fluids, yeah?"

"Yeah." Tenten leans back into her pillows with a grin, feeling as if things are going right in her life for once.

Tenten is caught off-guard when Neji visits her ward the next night.

She steps out of the bathroom, and is humming to herself when she notices that she isn't the only one in the room. Neji stands quietly to the side, turning to look at her when she pauses, two steps away from stepping back into the bathroom and locking herself in.

Neji has apparently guessed at her train of thought, because he looks between her and the bathroom door, frowning lightly. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't sequester yourself in there," he tells her, smooth baritone unexpectedly welcome against her ears.

"How do you do that?" she grumbles, frowning at him. The hospital shirt and pants fall loosely against her body, and she feels almost naked in them, with the way they brush airily over her skin.

"Do what?" Neji raises an eyebrow at her.

"Read my thoughts," Tenten reluctantly admits, casting him a sour look.

His lips quirk by a fraction. "It's not often that I can."

But I'm still able to, is what Neji leaves hanging in the air between them, and Tenten huffs, folding her arms.

"Are you going to lie down? I don't bite." He gestures towards the bed.

She frowns at him, crossing the floor and getting into bed eventually. It's not as if they don't know each other intimately by now. "You keep saying that," she mutters.

"I won't bite unless you ask me to," he says in a quiet tone, his eyes intent on her.

Tenten looks towards the ceiling. "You can save that. What're you here for?" she asks, guardedly.

Neji moves over to the side of her bed, though he remains standing, looking down at her. "I was... thinking of making amends."

"How?" She scoots back towards the headboard to put some distance between them, narrowing her eyes at him.

"How's your hangover?" he probes.

Tenten blinks at him in surprise. "It's all but gone now." She pauses, looking him over - his bruises are healing up, and the cuts have scabbed. "How are your fingers?"

Neji grimaces. "They'll be healing for a while."

"At least you're right-handed," Tenten mutters (and the thought of his hands on her steals into her mind).

He lifts his eyebrows. "You remembered."

"How can I forget?" Tenten rolls her eyes.

Neji falls silent then, looking steadily at her, and Tenten squirms. "I found you at the window of stars two nights ago," he says lowly.

Tenten winces. "Well, thanks for bringing me back."

He shrugs lightly. "I wouldn't have known about that place if you hadn't brought me there."

"That's... ancient history." She looks away from him, remembering the time she brought him there, as well as their recent encounter, when he'd hugged her on New Year's day.

"Have you taken anyone else to the room?" Neji asks, and Tenten gets the distinct feeling that he isn't just asking about whether anyone else knows of its existence through her doing.

"No," she admits, rubbing her arms. There hasn't been anyone aside from him that she's wanted to share her secret with, after all.

"Do you regret bringing me there?" Neji's voice is quiet, and Tenten is, again, struck by the sense that visiting the stars isn't what he's really talking about.

She purses her lips, hesitating. Has she ever regretted any of the things she's done with him? "No."

Tenten knows that for a fact the moment she says it - she doesn't lament any of their past history, or the intimacy they've shared.

Neji steps a little closer to the bed - she reads the restraint in his body - and rests his bandaged hand on the railing that separates him from her. "You must dislike me a great deal now," he suggests softly.

She looks up at him, surprised that he would even bring that up. Tenten worries at her lip with her teeth, and glances away. "No, I don't," she answers.

"Why not?" Neji frowns.

"I can't." Tenten shrugs. "But believe me, I tried."

He exhales quickly then; the corners of his lips lift. "You said the same thing to me while you were drunk."

Tenten blinks rapidly at him. "I did?"

"Yeah." Neji dips his chin.

"What else did I say?" She gulps, meets his gaze warily.

He gives a wry smile. "You said you could protect yourself."

Tenten smirks. At least she hadn't been spouting crap. "Damn straight."

"I don't doubt it," Neji looks warmly at her, and the intensity of his gaze makes her swallow and look away, embarrassed. "When I said I wanted to make amends..."

She looks up when he trails off - Neji is a lot closer than he was moments ago. Her heart pounds to life, and Tenten stares at him, scrambling for words. "What did you mean by that?" she breathes.

She stops thinking when he leans over her, cupping the sides of her face with his hands.

Neji's lips are soft and moist against hers, and she gives in almost immediately when he tips her head back. His breath puffs on her cheek; his lips slide over hers. Tenten gasps the moment his tongue flicks against the seam of her mouth. She allows him entrance, reeling when he slides against her, wet and heady and inviting all at once.

Heat arrows straight between her legs; she moans, needing more, and Neji pulls away, looking as if he were both pleased and annoyed with himself.

"That wasn't supposed to happen," he mutters, settling into the chair by her bed. Her heart thunders in her chest.

She frowns. "Weren't you-" Tenten licks her lips, and tries again. "I thought you said I- How is that making amends?"

Neji winces. "I was supposed to apologize first."

"That's some apology," she mumbles, still bowled over by the fact that he's just kissed her.

Neji shrugs, stares at the railing of the bed. "I... have wanted to do that for a long time."

"You're telling me," she retorts, though with far less of her earlier wariness. How long has he thought about them being more than... teammates? Friends?

Tenten doesn't dispute her desire to kiss him again. He'd felt very good against her.

"I realized that I was trying to keep my distance from you," Neji begins.

"Why?" She swallows, curling her fingers into the sheets. "That... that wasn't about the video? What you said before?"

"It was always about the clan," Neji says wearily, flicking his gaze towards her, and Tenten suddenly understands why he said what he did.

"So... I wasn't just a good fuck, then," she suggests, trying to squash the hope blooming in her chest.

His lips quirk. Neji looks down at his broken fingers. "You weren't supposed to feel affection towards me."

"Just lust?" Tenten raises an eyebrow, wondering how far he'd planned all this in advance. "What about you buying me rounds on Gliese Beta? And the offer to give me kunai lessons? The cartridges? Sounds like you screwed up to me."

"So did you," he retorts, amusement lighting his features.

Tenten rolls her eyes. "So. Am I just a good fuck, or what?"

"Not just that," he admits sheepishly.

She finds that she can't breathe quite right. "What am I to you, Neji?" she asks, her voice so quiet that she almost isn't able to hear it herself.

Neji stares at her for a long time. Tenten licks her lips, and his gaze drops briefly to her mouth, before returning to her eyes. "There are a lot of answers I can give," he says slowly. "The textbook answer, and what I'm supposed to tell my uncle."

Tenten frowns. "I want to know what your heart tells you."

He smiles lightly. "Given the choice, I'd pick you over anything else."

She thinks her heart might've stopped beating. "To face you in a simulation, you mean."

"Your sense of humor is twisted." Neji lifts his slender eyebrows.

"What else am I supposed to think?" she answers challengingly.

"I'd pick you to be my side," he tells her simply, and Tenten swallows hard, looks away.

"You can't be for real," she mumbles. What did Neji mean by that? "What happened on Aesis, before we got there?"

"There wasn't a death sentence, if that's what you wanted to know."

"Hinata said... they're keeping tabs on you." She frowns. "I see what you mean when you said your life isn't your own."

Neji inclines his head. "You've always known that, though."

"So... what does this mean for us?" She gulps, suddenly embarrassed. "Me and you?"

He doesn't answer her immediately, instead taking some time to choose his words. "I'll let you decide."

"What about you?" She frowns.

Neji lifts his shoulders lightly. "We'll talk about it in a few days, when you've come up with an answer."

Tenten blinks, absorbing his words. The deep-space mission comes to mind then. Her stomach clenches. "That deep-space mission - did you send an application in for it?"

He holds her stare for a while. "No."

It feels as if all the air in her body is deflating, very, very quickly. "Oh."

"Is there something I should know?" he asks.

Tenten gulps, trying to think. "I'll- I'll give you an answer soon," she says weakly, horrified by the prospect that she'd not be seeing him for the next few months, at least. Maybe they should hold off on any discussion until she gets back.

Neji considers her words for a bit, before getting to his feet. "I should be going," he tells her. "I've been assigned on a mission."

Crap. Tenten winces, looks at him. "I'll see you in a few days, right?"

He gives her a tiny smile. "Yeah."

She doesn't protest when he leans over her and draws her into another kiss, far deeper and longer than their first. Attempts to break away fail, especially when Tenten winds her fingers in his hair, anchoring him to herself.

"We're going to get caught like that," Neji murmurs against her mouth eventually, his breath falling heavy on her cheek.

"If I'm not seeing you for a few days," she mutters, sliding her lips over his, "I don't care."

Neji gives in to her. It's another long while before he finally pulls away, pale eyes hooded with desire. Tenten swallows hard, knows this isn't the place for more to happen.

"Sleep well," he tells her firmly. She doesn't miss the bulge at his groin, though.

Tenten stays awake in bed for a long time after, thoughts of Neji keeping her restless.

"Time for my daily report," Neji says dryly, settling into the couch. Hinata's quarters look no different from before, and he doesn't bother scanning it. The thought of dealing with clan matters is enough to leave a bitter taste in his mouth - very effective in quashing the lust that Tenten had roused earlier.

"I'm ready when you are," Hinata answers placidly, her computer and roll-up keyboard on her lap.

"The usual - mission preparations. I've got the Himawari ready for occupation," Neji recounts, "The sunflower seeds are on board, and so is the machinery required for the smooth operation of the ship."

Hinata remains silent while she types through Neji's summary. At length, she looks up at him. "Is that all?"

Neji pauses. "No."

"Oh?" Hinata's eyebrows lift ever so slightly. "What else was there?"

"I... made amends with L- Tenten." He shifts in his seat. The image of her staring up at him, kiss-swollen lips parted, surfaces in his mind.

Hinata has stopped typing, though she tips her head to the side. "How so?"

A frown creases his forehead. "Is this information pertinent?"

His cousin purses her lips then. "Well, Father would require you to disclose what exactly you did with her, and for how long."

Heat creeps up his cheeks. He's never talked about his private life with anyone, save for Hinata. And this is a little too intimate, even with how well she knows him.

At his silence, Hinata continues, "By his standards, I would need you to tell me if you've hugged her, or kissed her, or... well."

Neji watches her in mortified silence.

She gives him an almost-cheeky grin then. "But I'm not Ino, and I most certainly do not require that information."

The tension seeps out of his shoulders, and Neji is almost sagging with relief at her words.

"But... if you're willing to share, I'd like to know how you made up with her. Off the records."

He frowns. Hinata hasn't been pushy on any details where it comes to this daily report nonsense, and Neji supposes that he owes her a vague answer, at least.

"I... kissed her." He looks away, then back at her.

Hinata is smiling wider now, and Neji doesn't recall seeing many people that filled with joy for his sake. "Are things okay now?" she asks.

He hesitates, then nods. "I hope so."

"I'm glad to hear," she tells him quietly. "Are you prepared for this mission?"

"Can I not be?" he asks flatly in return.

Hinata smiles. "I guess you can't. I'm sorry that Father has insisted that I join you on the operation, though."

Neji shrugs. "It's fine. I don't consider you or your team a burden. If anything, each of you would be an asset to the mission."

Delight crosses her features. Hinata blushes and dips her head. "Thank you."

"Is that all for tonight?" he asks then, glancing at her computer.

Hinata nods, keying the last few commands to send her report along. "It is. Good night, Neji."

Tenten decides that she isn't sleeping tonight - at least, not yet.

She jams her earpiece on her ear, thumbing buttons that she knows by heart. The connecting tone buzzes in her ear, and she flops over on the wrinkled sheets of her hospital bed.

"Hyuuga Neji speaking."

Tenten swallows and smiles at his voice. "Hey," she begins awkwardly. "Um."

"I trust that you're still in the infirmary," he tells her evenly.

She rolls her eyes. "I am. I would like not to be in the infirmary, though."

There's a short pause on his end. "I can imagine," he replies. "Is that why you called?"

A laugh bubbles from her throat. "Yes."

"I can't sign your discharge papers."

"No, you can't," she agrees. "But you can offer me a place to hide for a bit."

"Just to hide?" Neji asks, archly. "I didn't think you were given to hiding, Lieutenant."

Tenten looks towards the ceiling, mildly annoyed. "You're still such a jerk."

He exhales lightly. "I don't think you contacted me to call me names."

She refrains from dispensing another insult. Even if she really likes him. "Have you moved to your new quarters?"

"Yeah. T20, if you must know." Neji pauses again. "Did you have something in mind?"

"Maybe." Tenten grins and evades the question, rolling off her bed. She pads across the room, clicks the unlocking switch, and the door hisses open.

"I'm surprised they haven't put you under constant supervision," he tells her dryly.

"I don't need it," she tells him. "What're you doing?"

"Other than stripping out of my clothes and stroking myself?"

Her cheeks flush with heat. "Neji!" she hisses, even as her body responds to that imagery. "That's so- I didn't expect- That's just crude."

"You liked it when we did it before," he reminds her, and she remembers those phone calls while he was on that short trip to the Orion cluster.

"I'm talking about now," she retorts, heading down the corridors to where the captains' quarters are. It doesn't take her long to locate T20.

"What would you prefer now, then?"

Tenten thinks she hears the hint of a grin in his voice. She pauses by his door, and keys her entry code into her earpiece.

She isn't surprised when the door slides open. Neji is seated by his desk, fully-dressed, the smallest grin on his lips. She ends the call, pulls her earpiece off, and steps in.

He keys a code into his earpiece to lock the door.

Like Captain Gai's quarters, Neji's comprise of a front office, with a door by the side leading to a meeting room, and another leading to his private lodgings. There aren't many things hanging on the wall at all, though Tenten notices the bright yellow cover of a book - Sunflowers.

"Preparing for your mission?" she asks him, noting that he's watching her, his eyes coasting down her body. Her nerves come alive with heat in response.

"I was, yes," Neji answers. He gets to his feet soon after. "Ever wondered what a Captain's quarters looks like on the inside?"

"I have," she admits, a grin creeping up her lips when he heads for one of the doors by his desk, opening it and flicking the lights inside on.

Neji's quarters are larger than hers, and Hinata's. His office opens into a comfortable living area, with plush couches and a coffee table. A flat-screen TV hangs on one wall of the room.

"That's where all the military spending has been going, huh?" she quips, and Neji looks at her in amusement. "No wonder Captain Gai refused to show us his living quarters."

"I don't remain long in here," he tells her wryly, opening the door to his bedroom.

There is a queen-sized bed in the room; the covers look soft, and thick rugs surround the bed. Bookcases line the walls. Tenten stares. "I might consider being a captain for this," she tells him.

"Or sleeping with one," he answers, and she glowers at him.

"You're so full of yourself," she grumbles.

Neji doesn't reply, merely closing the door behind them. "You mentioned hiding out for a while. When was your last vitals measurement at the infirmary?"

"Half an hour ago." Tenten looks appraisingly at him. "Why do you ask?"

"We have some time then," he smirks, lilac eyes boring into hers.

She doesn't back away when he closes the distance between them. Her heart flutters. Neji's fingers are warm against her chin when he tips her lips up to his. She leans into him with a sigh, opening herself to him, and the stroke of his tongue into her mouth is slow and thrilling.

This feels like it has been a long time in coming, yet not at all.

He wraps an arm around her waist, pulling her flush against his hard body. Tenten feels him vividly through her thin hospital garments, reaching up to peel his uniform off. But Neji slides his tongue against hers, nudges her mouth further open, and Tenten forgets to even breathe, when his fingers steal up beneath her shirt, and his thumb brushes over a hard nipple. She gasps; he's scooping her up and heading over to the bed in the next instant, depositing her gently onto the lush covers.

It doesn't take either of them long to undress. She grins up at him when he leans over her, anchoring his palms on either side of her shoulders. A sweet ache unfurls in her chest when Neji lowers his face to hers again, his hair forming a curtain around them in an intimate, shadowy circle. She reaches up, splays her fingers across his chest, and he draws a surprised breath when she flicks her nail against his nipple.

"Are we playing that way?" he murmurs, pressing a brief kiss to her lips, before trailing kisses down her jaw. A gasp slips through her lips when he licks down her throat, past her collarbones, to her breasts.

He doesn't stop there, instead sucking lightly on each of her nipples. His teeth graze her skin; she gasps, arches towards him. Ribbons of desire thrum along her nerves. Tenten parts her legs before he even reaches her navel, and Neji smiles, flicking his gaze up at her.

"Do you need something?" he asks, and Tenten can't find the words in her to respond, when he drops feather-light kisses down her belly, and rests his palms on her inner thighs to keep them apart, kissing right above her thatch of hair. Heat pools between her legs.

He comes awfully close to her nether lips, and Tenten holds her breath in anticipation - only to have him blow lightly over her heated flesh, still refraining from allowing her pleasure. She groans and squirms. "Neji."

The look in his eyes sharpens, and Tenten moans when he answers with his tongue against her swollen nub. Her body jerks at the pleasure he winds into her flesh with every flick of his tongue. He licks down to her core, then back up, and she writhes with the tension building in her body, reaching down to hold his head in place.

He smirks against her flesh, and presses a finger into her slick heat, curling it against her at the same time he sucks on her clit. Tenten shudders; he adds another finger, and continues to stroke her, both inside and out, until she's all but bucking at him, desperate for release. He drags his teeth over her aching flesh then.

Pleasure is a brilliant white explosion that crashes through her body. Her toes curl, and she gives a sharp cry, trembling hard with each wave of sensation that ripples through her being.

Neji is watching her when she recovers, satisfaction and desire stark on his features. She lifts a hand for him; he fits himself into her palm and returns his lips to hers, kissing her with a slow, intense ferocity that makes her burn anew for him, for the thick length thrusting slowly against her fingers.

She pushes him upright when he begins to leave trails of moisture in her hand, and Neji rises onto his knees, his attention never straying from her. Tenten grins up at him, looking between his erection and his dark eyes, and leans up to take him into her mouth. He groans, twitches against her tongue. She caresses his sac and bobs her head on him, savoring how his sheer size fills her mouth.

Tenten would have smiled if she could - she still likes the power she has over him, though her need for him to be sliding within her is quickly becoming too much to bear. She pulls away, leaving him slick with saliva. He doesn't respond to her grin, instead pinning her flat against the mattress, covering her body with his.

Neji fits perfectly between her spread thighs, and she throws her head back when he eases into her, spreading her flesh. His slow entrance doesn't remain gentle; he plunges roughly into her soon after, filling her completely, and she gasps at the pleasure that throbs in her flesh. His chest heaves; he meets her eyes, breathing hard, and Tenten sees the restraint he tries to wield, when he begins to move deliberately once more, each stroke drawing her attention to the incredibly intimate way he's touching her inside.

Her flesh grows wetter around him, and Tenten squirms when she isn't able to stand this sweet torment any longer. She gasps his name, sinking her fingertips into his hips, and Neji leans in close, pounding into her with deep, intense strokes that rob her of all coherent thought. The kiss he captures her lips in is rough, demanding, and she responds just as fervently, wanting as much of him as he's willing to give.

The need within her builds with each maddening grind of his pelvis against her swollen flesh, and the burst of sensation is far more intense when he tips her over the edge the second time. She presses her nails into his back and clenches hard around him, his name tearing from her lips.

Neji shudders and spills into her soon after, his flesh pulsing within her, and it's a long while before either of them moves, or begins to speak.

"Stay for a while before you leave," Neji rasps between ragged breaths, burying his face in her shoulder.

Tenten hesitates - she isn't going to be seeing him much very soon - and agrees, wrapping her arms around his back. "You wouldn't let me say no, would you?" she teases.

Neji smiles, glances at her. "Probably not."

She grins at him, and kisses him again.

Konoha, Mar 28, 2031, 0800 hrs

"Tenten! I thought you'd be more excited about our new mission!" Lee exclaims, when she finally joins her team in the hangar of the Himawari.

"Thought you got lost around here." Kiba grins at her, before turning away. "I'm gonna go chat with Ino."

C58 is one of the largest hangars on board the Konoha - it is a few stories tall, and the Himawari itself towers over all of the gathered personnel - almost like a giant metallic blimp, but with pointed ends. The Silver Blade has long been transported into its hangars, together with the spacecrafts of some of the other teams.

"I am excited," she tells Lee, while still gaping at the sheer size of what will be their new home for the next few months. Granted, the Konoha is far larger than this, but she hasn't really looked at the Konoha while standing in a hangar with it before. "Though I wonder why they named it the Himawari."

"That's Japanese for 'sunflower', isn't it?" Lee asks, setting his backpack on the floor.

Tenten frowns - sunflowers remind her of that book she saw on Neji's desk a few days ago. And the reminder of Neji is enough to make her heart pound once again. She still hasn't given him a reply since his visit to the infirmary, and they haven't met any more after that night in his new quarters. Perhaps it's for the best.

"I don't see how it relates to deep-space exploration," she tells him, scanning the group of roughly twenty-five people. A third of them are people she's familiar with - Hinata's team, her own, as well as Ino, Kotetsu, and Izumo. Have the last two been separated from Neji? He did say he was assigned on a mission... "Any idea who's in charge of this mission?" she asks Lee.

"Nope, but I figure I could use this time to train!" Lee grins, before lowering himself to the floor to execute a series of push-ups. Tenten looks exasperatedly at him.

"I thought you were running late, Lieutenant," a low baritone sounds behind her, and Tenten whips around to see pale lilac eyes staring at her.

Her heart leaps to her throat. "Neji," she yelps, taking a step back. "Weren't you assigned on a mission?"

The dots connect in her mind then, and Tenten could've hit herself for not having realized it earlier.

He smirks at her; she fights the urge to glower at him. "This mission," he answers. "I believe I mentioned it to you while you were drunk."

She rolls her eyes hard. "That doesn't count, genius," Tenten mutters.

But she is so, so relieved that he isn't going to be separated from her for the next few months.

She does refrain from throwing her arms around him, however, instead heaving her backpack so it rests better on her shoulder.

"I should take that from you," Neji offers, glancing at her bag of supplies. "I hope you aren't only bringing your guns along."

Tenten frowns indignantly at him. "I filled a third of my luggage with weaponry," she replies. "Besides, you still owe me those kunai lessons."

"So I do." He smiles down at her and holds his hand out for the bag.

Tenten shakes her head. "You have other things to be doing, Captain," she reminds him dryly.

Neji looks warmly at her - and steps in close, pressing a light kiss to her lips.

"Hey!" she protests, when he pulls away. A deep flush creeps onto her cheeks. "In front of everyone?" Tenten hisses.

He takes a step back and looks over his shoulder - not many people have noticed, if at all. Tenten thinks she sees the triumphant grin of one Yamanaka Ino, however.

"Ino's going to tease me about it forever," she groans, covering her face.

Lee chooses that moment to get to his feet, beaming brightly at her. Tenten blinks - she hasn't imagined the tears in his eyes. "Captain Gai will be so proud," he crows.

"What?" she sputters, looking blankly at him.

"You and Neji," Lee answers, giving Neji a pointed look. "I trust that he will cradle your youthful, blossoming heart-"

"Oh just shut up, Lee!" Tenten cringes. Neji's lips thin, and the mildest look of distaste crosses his face.

"I'll share this wonderful news with Captain Gai," he informs them, turning away to make a call.

"Oh, gods." Tenten pinches the bridge of her nose. "What's the mission about, anyway? All we've been told is that we're exploring space."

"We'll be growing sunflowers on various planets to determine their potential as possible colonization areas," Neji answers. "Hence the need for a scientist, as well as a specimen collection team."

"Also so Hinata can keep tabs on you," she mutters, rolling her eyes.

"That as well," Neji agrees. He looks fondly at her, and Tenten glances away, embarrassed. "I should be rounding everyone up. We're boarding in fifteen."

"Right," she answers, looking back towards the Himawari. "I hope the quarters are decent in there."

"They're similar to those here, although smaller," Neji informs her, sending her a sidelong glance. "But there's space for two in my quarters," he adds in an undertone.

Tenten feels her cheeks heat. "We'll see about that," she replies. "Don't get your hopes up."

Neji slants a knowing look at her, though, before turning on his heel and heading off, and she's unable to help the grin that creeps onto her lips.

Perhaps this new mission isn't going to be so bad, after all.

To be continued...

A/N: So yes, the sequel revolves around the mission. ;) No, I haven't even really planned everything that goes into it, so I can't tell you when it'll show up.

Overall, I think Hinata and Ino were the stars of this chapter. :P I wasn't sure if I really liked the sex scene in here (could've probably done without).. but I left it in in case some of you appreciated it.

Looking back on it, I'm not sure I'm proud of the ending.. I can feel my writing style changing (it's been half a year since I finished writing blackmail) and there are things I'm more concerned about than sex.. Sequel will probably not contain as much sex. :P Overall plot though, I guess I'm okay with it? I wasn't sure about the story right after I finished writing it, but I'm fine with it now.. Could have probably done with a lot more character development though.

But anyway.. if you have comments/crits not just on the ending, but on the entire story/character development, I'd love to hear it :) Blackmail is my baby; at the same time, though, my writing style and priorities have kind of changed, so I don't think I could've written it this way right now.

Fic plans in the interim: low-commitment types, such as Demon in My Chariot and the Metal Lee fic (both are prompt-based), plus some short one-shot things I've saved up a while back. :) I'm currently spending a lot of time in the Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle fandom (which is about a desert princess who loses her memories, and her childhood best friend and two other companions travel through worlds to retrieve them for her).. There is a lot of world- and character-building in the TRC fics, far more than I can begin to emphasize.. Far more than I've ever seen in the NejiTen fandom. Give the series a read - it's 233 chapters and complete. ;) (I swear, after reading TRC you'll look back at Naruto and ask, What were you doing Kishimoto?!)

Most importantly, though, I just wanted to say THANK YOU to all of you who have followed Blackmail and left comments on it, be it in the form of reviews/PMs/Tumblr asks - it's been one hell of a ride. ;) I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I did.

Anyhow, feel free to drop a review, message me/etc etc :) I'm still around and writing, though am currently focusing on TRC at the moment.