A/N: Implied sexual content below!


-epilogue-

They came to an agreement that wasting an already-paid-for weekend getaway would be an unfortunate way to end things.

So, train tickets in hand, Tenten and Neji slipped away late into the night, slightly drunk. Upon their arrival at the hotel Tenten had booked, they meandered around the grounds trying to sober up some, inhaling the sharp scent of not-quite-spring in the air.

"How much do you want to bet it snows again while we're here?" Tenten murmured to Neji, her breath fogging in the night.

"No bets—we're both unemployed," Neji reminded her, hands in his pockets as he considered the moon hanging above them.

"Fuck," Tenten said, running a hand through her bangs. "I forgot."

Neji caught her eye, a smile tugging at his lips. Tenten stared back, the cold air slicing down her throat. "Are you sleepy?" she finally asked.

Neji shook his head. "Are you?"

"No." She pressed her lips together, aching to touch him. She glanced away, thinking for a moment, before glancing back at him, a mischievous smile on her lips. "They have hot springs here."

Neji studied her for a long second, then raised his eyebrows. "Want to take a look?"

-x-

"If hotel management catches us, we'll be lucky if they don't kick us out."

Tenten rolled her eyes, sighing as the steam from the spring beaded on her skin. "Neji, I already told you—it's a communal spring."

"And we're here in the dead of night, with no one else around," he replied, not sounding too concerned.

Tenten turned to him, leaning back against the wall. He watched her, arms spread out along the wall, his torso pale and glistening from the moonlight above.

The natural spring was outdoors, sectioned off from the hotel by a high gated wall. Heat rose in lazy tendrils from the surface of the water.

"Was this your plan all along?" Neji asked quietly after a moment. "To get me naked in a hot spring? Were you going to confess to me here?"

Tenten smirked and swam closer to him. "No, but that would have been a good idea. I'll be sure to think of it next time."

Neji snorted, drumming his fingers against the wall. "You're very presumptuous," he murmured softly. "Who says there will be a next time?"

Tenten stilled, resting her shoulder against the wall as she looked at him. "Do you want there to be?"

Neji turned his head, eyes roaming over her face. "I can't help thinking how . . . strange it would be. To go back and explain everything."

Chewing on the inside of her cheek, Tenten replied, "We could lie. Say I got amnesia. Or that I had an evil twin."

Neji's mouth pulled into an amused smirk. Tenten's heart flipped. He moved closer to her, his fingertips drifting across the surface of the water. "Lying doesn't solve anything, Tenten. Or has this experience taught you nothing?"

Her skin shivered with the sound of her name leaving his mouth; she still hadn't gotten used to it.

Neji continued, his eyes skimming across the dark landscape around them, "What will I tell everyone—that a woman I've been dating for six months is actually someone else and has a criminal record?"

"I still think the evil twin idea would work," Tenten muttered, inching towards him.

Neji smiled but it was troubled, his forehead creased with concern. Tenten touched his brow with her wet fingers, smoothing out the lines. "You're overthinking," she whispered. "All you have to do is say that six months ago, you met a stripper, fell in love with her, but were too embarrassed by her job to mention it. But now, you realize that your embarrassment was misguided, and that who cares if she's a stripper—she's your girlfriend."

Neji had closed his eyes during her speech, his hands sliding down her forearms to rest on her biceps. "That would require another deception, Tenten."

"It's only a white lie, Neji, but fine," she released, unconcerned, mesmerized by the way he looked in the moonlight. "Then I'll tell everyone the truth. We can have a meeting; I'll explain everything in excruciating detail. Hinata can throw in how I thwarted her would-be kidnapping, I'll tell a few anecdotes from my life as a hardened criminal, and then we can live happily ever after."

Neji's eyes cracked open, letting go of her arms to slip his hands underneath the water, grasping her waist. "'Happily ever after'?" he mused, raising an eyebrow. "I wouldn't have assumed you wanted that."

Tenten shrugged. "Look, I'm not expecting us to ride off into the sunset after all of this. We should probably go to therapy."

Neji considered this. His hand trailed up her spine and came to rest on the back of her neck. "I don't want any more secrets between us," he finally said, weaving his fingers into her hair.

Tenten leaned into his touch, pressing her body into his. Finding his eyes, she murmured, "I don't have anything left to hide from you, Neji Hyuga. And even if I did, I wouldn't want to."

She lifted her head and Neji bent down, placing his lips on hers. They kissed languidly, savoring the silence and the heat between them.

Tenten pulled back, uncertainty in her chest. "Can I ask for something I don't deserve?"

Neji waited for her to go on, his eyes luminescent as he considered her.

Tenten took a breath, gazing at him seriously. "I know I don't have a right to ask this, but . . . will you promise to think about forgiving me, someday, for all the terrible things I put you through? For all the lies I told? For the mess I made and the confusion I caused?"

Neji blinked slowly, wrapping his arms tighter around her. Tenten slid her legs around his waist, her eyes searching for any sign of hope.

"Only if you tell me something in exchange," he said finally.

Tenten nodded attentively.

Neji glanced away for a moment, his eyebrows drawn in thought. "I wonder, now, if we're actually compatible. If you say you want to be with me, want my forgiveness, only for a fiction—for someone you think that I am, but I'm not."

Tenten trailed her dripping fingers up to lace behind Neji's neck, staring steadily into his eyes. "I don't want you because you make me feel less lonely or because I'm attracted to you. I want you because of who you are—all the sacrifices you've made for your family, for the love you have for your father and how you're still grieving his death, for the way you protect Hinata and Naruto and Hanabi. You put me at ease. You make me want to be honest. I've thought long and hard about this, Neji Hyuga—you've made a fool of me and I've decided to let myself be okay with that."

Neji's hand wound into her hair, drawing her to him again. Tenten sunk into his embrace, her heart racing. When they parted, Neji tilted his head at her, a new gleam in his eyes. "Let's go inside."

Tenten cast a sad look around the hot spring. Neji chuckled, shaking his head. "I should have known. You only selected this place because of the hot spring, didn't you? Does this mean you really were only dating me for my shower?"

Tenten pretended to think about it, then said, "What would Neji Hyuga's shower be without Neji Hyuga?"

They shared a smile and kissed once more, letting the steam and the moonlight fill in around them.

-x-

It took a long time to unmake all the lies that had been told, and forge what trust had been broken—far longer than any weekend getaway could provide. But (and this is the important part) they began the journey together. One could suppose they would end it there as well.

-end-