Neji/Tenten Side Story
Last Side Story, truly. I only was curious to see how this would play out. Never wrote Neji and Tenten before. I just hope I have a good grasp of who Tenten actually is. Seriously, in a world of poorly developed female characters, she is one that gets slighted a lot, I think.
Use of first person done for a change of pace. Honestly I hate to use it or read it. But it was the only way to really get into her head.
Short? Yes. A little silly? Yes. But now I think I satisfied all the requests for addendums to this long bit of nonsense. So no more.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or the characters therein. This is just madness.
I can't say it was the best decision I made, but it wasn't the worst either. Life in the law firm wasn't work so much as a lifetime love affair with paper. Actually, there's something about holding stacks of the stuff in my hands that makes me feel better, more important, like I had a purpose. Then everything was shifted onto computers as much as possible. I don't remember who insisted on this, but it might have been one of those offhand suggestions from Shikamaru that Temari finally took seriously. Somehow, I think that if I hadn't been staring at a screen all day long then I might have stayed even with all the stress. It's like how people stay in abusive relationships without knowing why.
Maybe people find it strange that I transferred jobs because I preferred paperwork to computers, but we all make up stupid reasons for justifying life changing moments. I'd heard a friend in college decided the names of her children by pointing randomly into a baby book. Hello, little Xerxes, how are you feeling today. . . All I did was change jobs, but it was oddly just as transformative as if I had been named again. In many ways I was, because due to some fault in the copier, my name came out as a big black splotch on all the official documents.
For lack of anything better, everyone started to call me Miss Tenten. Strange, but amusing, and then even after people figured out that it was a mistake the name stuck. It was one of those kind of things. I was powerless to stop it, mostly because it would have been social suicide to be catty about something so little as my name in the first few weeks. I blame Sakura for that, for leaving me with an impossible number of people I had to remember in such a short time.
Sakura left a gap in the company that even I felt on her floor. Sakura was just one of those people who left a strong impression, for good or ill, on everyone around her. Even the people around who didn't like her still talked about her constantly and the things she did that they didn't like for hours on end to me. No one considered asking me much about me, but I had gotten used to being a number in the system long ago. Nothing about me stood out. I didn't have distinctive hair or eyes, my skills were good but not extraordinary, and my personality didn't seem to scream anything in particular at people. Even my new boss seemed confused. The first three times I saw Mr. Hatake I had to remind him I was the same person he saw at this desk last time and that I was indeed not a temp. I'm still unsure if he was teasing me or not. Sakura said the man was infuriating.
Naturally the only person who didn't forget my name was the person in HR who was supposed to handle all the issues raised by my last name having been fudged on the records and then put down incorrectly after that. Since it was about a mistake, something that Mr. Hatake didn't seem to be able to acknowledge let alone help me fix, I exchanged quite a few words with Neji Hyuuga. Some of them weren't even swear words. Well, honestly, none of them were swear words (as much as I wanted them to be in many cases). Backbone like that is for people like Sakura who don't worry about losing their job the same way I worry about losing mine.
The first person to person visit I had with him didn't go very well.
"Miss Tenten, it says clearly on your records that your last name is the same as your first name."
"I think I know my own name, Mr. Hyuuga." At this point I was getting a wee bit peeved. "And don't you think the name Tenten Tenten sounds a bit silly? Who would name their child something like that, drug addicts?"
Neji gave me 'the look', a blank stare that managed to be disapproving as well as condescending, as if I had insulted him. "I'm sure I don't know how many drugs your parents may or may not have ingested. What I do know is that your official records indicate one thing and you are going about this entirely wrong to get them changed. There is a process."
"But you're the person I was referred to. I thought Human Resources was supposed to help people."
"I don't know what made you think I was the person in charge of this."
It would have been too painful to go over how many people I had been shuffled to just to get the permission to change a few letters on my identification documents. Instead, I decided to continue being nice and hold down the anger inside me telling me to punch this man in the face. I had heard many others in the department had had similar experiences with Neji Hyuuga.
"Please, just pull my file, change the last name and give me a few copies and I will go around and make sure all the places that need the information get it."
"I'm sorry, but your information has been filed. It isn't that easy. Maybe if everything were solely electronic it would be different." He said 'filed' as if it were a process so permanent it would take laser surgery to correct it.
I was no stranger to paperwork and I could see some in my future. "Would you give me to correction form to submit, please?"
This seemed to please him. Maybe here too was another person who had long ago learned to love paperwork, in a way, or else consign themselves to a slow death by papercuts. "I'll give you the form. If you had simply told me at the beginning that that is what you wanted then we could have skipped this entire discussion."
I nodded wearily while he printed out the form I needed from a document file on his computer. Only later did I suspect that the trouble he gave me was some sick form of flirting. I was just as bad though, in this rocky beginning, because I'll admit I purposely filled out my name on the correction as a 'Mr.' so that I could go back and see him again.
Why would I do that? I can feel you asking, and it's refreshing to see that I can do things that actually surprise people once in a great while. Don't think that my hand wasn't shaking like mad when I did that insane stunt. I had my reasons. Well, other than the fact that he was the first person not to talk on and on about something Sakura said or did when she had my job, his hair was to die for. That may sound shallow, but it's true. I like hair, and mine is down to the top of my thighs but I have to tie it up tightly in buns so that it doesn't impede my work. When I see people with nice hair, particularly men, I notice.
And Neji's hair was just beautiful, glossy and black, and straight like I wish mine would stay instead of the slight kink it possess. Dutifully, I waited until I had proof of the mistake. In I went for the second visit, ready to try to blame it on computer error (one of the things I was always gleeful to hear because of my rabid dislike for the machines). It would take some careful maneuvering to get him to talk to me about something other than my information sheet. Neji was notoriously all business.
"What are you doing here? Where is my next appointment?" As usual we started out on a great note.
"That would be me." I tried to smile, but instead I held up the piece of paper like a weapon to defend myself with. "Another mistake."
"Impossible." He didn't scoff. Neji wouldn't lower himself to scoff.
I pointed out my name with the clear 'Mr.' before it. Neji narrowed those pale eyes of his and gestured for me to enter his office. There was no betrayal of annoyance in his body language besides his expressive face which seemed to be forever frozen in the same frown that my guidance counselor would give me when I told him I still hadn't chosen a career path. It had chosen itself for me. I work for large companies that seem to be populated by grumpy and gorgeous men.
"This is your fault." My heart tried to leap out of my chest. Good thing I have a rib cage.
"It's a computer error, I'm sure."
"I doubt that. On the form all you had to do was circle one of the options of 'Mr.', 'Ms.' or 'Mrs.' It had to be your fault this time." He cleared his throat before he asked in a slightly less smug voice. "Which one is it?"
Inside my head I was cheering, I assure you. "What?" I am not stupid, I just wanted to push his buttons a little because he pushed mine so effortlessly and I had spotted a crack in his armor.
"Is it 'Mrs.' or 'Ms.'?" He ground it out. I think he knew I was playing dumb.
"It's 'Ms.', but everyone around here calls me Tenten. So you might as well also. Last names feel so cold and impersonal anyway. Don't you think so?"
He blinked, obviously weighing options before he decided to respond. Such a careful man. We were in a subtle battle, feeling out the defense of the other. I knew he outclassed me, but I had to try anyway. I mean, why not? I'm not reckless, I assure you, but I do tend to throw everything I have out there at once and then see what happens. People tell me I should look before I leap sometimes. Then again, I got burned enough in the past that I rarely do this anymore. Hyuuga just seemed like such a safe bet. I didn't think I would get anywhere with him.
"Impersonal is appropriate for the workplace." Shot down again. Just as I suspected. I hate being right sometimes.
Much to my surprise, I was in his office a week later.
This time he didn't seem at all surprised that I was waiting outside of his office. He actually met me at the door. After what seemed like a direct shut down on my last visit, I didn't think I would be destined to meet with Neji Hyuuga unless I suddenly took a dive in my work performance. When the most recent correction came back, however, I noticed that Tenten had been spelled "Tentenn". I actually ignored it. It just as well could have been a slip of the hand on someone's typewriter and not in my actual file. But apparently someone in HR didn't want to take that chance. I got what appeared to be a summons towards the end of my workday on that Friday. I was just finishing up some notes for Mr. Hatake on the appointments that he missed and which Mr. Aburame filled in for when it came. The precise and stark signature at the bottom made my heart move to a steady tromping march. I had it bad. It wasn't just about his hair anymore.
It was a gorgeous day outside, but it felt like an oven in his office. Either he had ice water in his veins or I was sweating out of nervousness.
"I'm glad you could see me so quickly, I hear that Hatake is a demanding boss." Wow. It was almost like he was making small talk. My eyebrows attempted to meet my hair line and I smiled without thinking about it.
"He still has trouble remembering my name. Which is understandable what with my name changing with every new form." I was back in! He had to be interested. After all he invited me here. I might have been in the wishful thinking sector of my brain, but then that itching sensation at the top of my scalp I get when I'm really edgy was fouling up all my logical thought.
Neji shuffled papers. This time around he was moving more. . . and more moving meant more nervousness for him too, I hoped. We were both indirect people and the sense of kinship helped me feel less like I was acting like an idiot already. I spend a lot of time being self conscious and pretending like I don't feel anything at all. Sometimes people even believe it. "I have no idea who could have gotten this wrong this time, but I feel like I should take care of things. . . personally this time."
I tried to make some token resistance to the idea. "Really you shouldn't trouble yourself. . ." Yes. Yes. Yes!
"I think that our employees are all valuable here, Tenten." That was not the sort of thing I wanted to be hearing, but at least he was using my name, and that was a good sign. Then he dropped the bomb on me.
"Maybe we could discuss it over dinner. I was going to have something delivered to the office, and unless you have pressing business I would rather get this done now."
By far it was the least romantic date offer I have ever been subjected to, but it was a date offer, of sorts. Or at least I thought it was. And all because of paperwork. God bless paperwork.
"Mr. Hyuuga, it's Friday evening and you're sure you want to spend it doing paperwork in your office?"
There was a glint in his eye that I'm sure I matched when he added. "It's after five, you may call me Neji if you like." I was already having fantasies about how his hair would feel as I ran it through my fingers. Even his autocratic manner couldn't take away from my feeling of triumph.
It took eight more dates (outside of the office) before he admitted it was he who had added the extra "n" to my name so that I would be forced to come see him again.
And nine dates before he admitted he fantasized about my hair too. (I knew we were more alike than I ever suspected.)
I can't thank Sakura enough for my job, even if my boss still doesn't know who I am and half the department wishes I had pink hair. That doesn't matter now that there's one person in HR who could care less if my name was Haruno or not.
He's still the only person in the building who can spell my name correctly.
I think I'm in love.