Hyuuga Neji placed a bouquet of lily flowers in front of the tombstone, his face a placid sea of emotionless-ness. The twenty-three year old man was still trying to get used to the fact that the cold stone marking this piece of land was his cousin's only other memory left in the world.
"Why…Hinata-sama…" His eyes shook slightly. "You had the choice. You didn't have to die. Why?"
A question that he had been asking her grave for the past six months that he had visited her. He was the only one who knew what really happened to her, and yet, he was still in the dark about some parts of her situation.
He knew she was carrying the seed of the Rokudaime; he also knew that giving birth to it may cost her life. How many times had he told her to abort her pregnancy? And each time, she could only shake her head timidly as she tackled her latest sewing projects—the outfits of her child.
She was sewing her baby's socks when he last saw her, round and heavy with the child of the Hokage. She was on the final month of her final trimester, and any day now, this woman who lived alone in the secluded forest of the village boundary would give birth without the child's father at her side.
"Hinata-sama, for the last time, tell the Hokage-sama about your situation," he pleaded.
She was tying her long dark hair above her head with a towel—almost a year away from civilization, haircut was obviously unavailable for her. Yet he found her calm and serene face and the plump body of hers very fitting for her image. She looked every inch a proud mother.
"He must know," he added. Within him, anger rose. His cousin, Hyuuga Hinata, holding perhaps one of the highest distinction a woman of the Leaf Village could as the eldest daughter of the clan head, was living as a recluse in practically the middle of nowhere, an unmarried would-be mother.
"Neji' nii-san," she said gently, silencing him. Gracefully, she plopped down in front of him, a delicate smile on her face. "The Rokudaime must not be bothered by little things like this one."
"A little thing this is most not, Hinata-sama!" he said, voice rising. "You have a bright future ahead of you. There are so many things you can and must do for the clan, and yet you threw it all away for him!"
"The night was mine then, Neji' nii-san," she said quietly. "It was the most beautiful night in my entire life. I harbor no regrets for surrendering all that is mine to the person I love."
"And will you tell me again, Hinata-sama, why you had to disappear from the village?" he asked, sighing.
"I never told you," she said, laughing airily. "But that was a clever attempt to get me to talk."
He felt the brotherly instinct to embrace her, but contented himself in clasping her hand. "Please tell at least Hiashi-sama."
"And start a war among clans?" Her eyes danced. "Father has only started to respect me now. If he hears about this…"
"Hinata-sama…" He swallowed with difficulty. "If you would consent, I shall claim that I fathered that child. Hiashi-sama will not like it, but trust me, it would be better than giving birth on your own and the child growing up with no father,"
Slowly, her pale eyes met his. "Neji' nii-san, you are very kind, being my guardian all throughout my life. I know your obligations to protect me as the child of the Main family, but please understand, I am not a child anymore. I know what I am doing."
He let out a sigh of defeat. "What will become of a Hyuuga child with no surname of his father?"
"I have no intention of taking him away from his father," she explained. "When he reaches the age of understanding, I shall introduce him properly to his father."
"Then why not do it now?" he asked in frustration.
It was only then that her innermost emotions showed through. "Didn't you hear, Neji' nii-san?" she asked, her voice breaking. "He is set to marry the protégé of the Godaime."
His fists clenched. And the day he feared most came—while laboring for her first-born child, Hyuuga Hinata's fragile body was not able to endure the pain of normal childbirth delivery. He watched in horror as the only other witness of this, a medical nin from another village, operated on his cousin's bleeding body.
Two hours after she had lied down on the futon, the mother died because of too much blood loss.
The child though, was alive. As he wrapped the infant with sterile clothing, he vowed to take the baby as his own. Uzumaki Naruto would not lay a finger on this child, not when he was still around.
It pained him to defy his cousin's original wishes that the father and son would meet someday, but this was for the best.
He returned to the Hyuuga Mansion that evening, bearing the infant. There were no questions laid on him by the Clan Head; theirs was a patriarchal rule that do not question these kinds of happenings when done by a male member.
Before the night ended, the child was christened Hyuuga Iji. The orphan.
About a Daddy and a Nanny
Neji x Tenten Request for Kakashi Rabid Fangirl
After TFTP went on a hiatus, I haven't tried making a NejiTen series yet. But since this request has been delayed far too long, I had broken my unfinished, very long oneshot into a series of chapters.
For Kakashi Rabid Fangirl. I doubt if you still remember that you made the request way back last year, but I still wish you can read it. After all, the skeletal frame of the plot was yours. I'm sorry if it took this long for me to upload it.
"The Hokage-sama will see you now," said Mitarashi Anko, peeking out towards the doorway where she was standing at that moment, playing with her kunai. "Tenten, right?"
"Uh-huh." Giving her weapon one final throw, she allowed it to land on her holster.
Anko looked un-impressed. "This way."
She rolled her eyes. Four years in Chuunin service and six years acting as a Jounin, she felt that she still had a long way to go before getting her talents recognized here.
For a kunoichi like her, the fastest way to be respected in the village was to become a medic. That was what the traditional role of female ninjas should be, in the eyes of today's male population. But she refused to become stereotyped—if she wanted to be remembered in Konoha's history, the best step was to be different from the rest.
And she started with becoming the first female jounin to reach this rank at a young age of seventeen. Although applauded by the village, she knew that the recognition was coupled by an even bigger challenge, which was proving her worth everyday.
Which explained why she was suddenly accepting missions left and right, irregardless of the difficulty levels of these. She wanted to get her point across—she was the next Tsunade-sama destined for the Hokage seat and beyond. Thus, she had to make an impression on everyone.
It was no secret that although she and Tsunade-sama had met and the old woman seemed to like her determination, the Godaime was grooming her own cock for the derby, especially since the Rokudaime had started to become more vocal about his dissatisfaction on getting chained to his desk.
Her main rival most definitely had to be Haruno Sakura, the sweetheart of Konoha. The Godaime was particularly proud of her, and she was almost certain as to why. Sakura was smart, her memory and skill for detail retaining was infallible (one of a medic nin's many useful weapons), and yes, she was nearly married to the Hokage-sama.
If only a controversy didn't appear.
She composed herself when at last, she arrived in front of the Hokage's unit. Readying her confident smile, she beamed at the blonde man as Anko announced her presence.
The voice made him open his eyes. He was standing amidst the Hyuuga gardens, practicing his most recent alterations to the clan jutsu, Byakugan. The source of the voice --the clan head himself-- was standing in front of him, on the other hand. The creased lines on the elder's forehead made him pause and bow respectfully.
It seemed like a lifetime ago when he hated this man and his daughters with violent intensity. Blaming him for his father's death was only too easy—Hyuuga Hiashi had every chance to stop his brother from becoming the sacrificial lamb in the impending war between the Cloud and the Leaf, but he chose to become a weakling.
Yet later on, it was revealed to him by the clan head that it was actually Hiashi's twin brother's choice to die. And that he could only let him do what a brother should – grant a dying man's wish.
Neji could never forget the sight of the high and mighty clan head bowing in front of him humbly, begging for his forgiveness.
From then on, he had reinforced his vow to protect the Main Family at all cost. That was, after all, the very same instruction his own father passed on to him. Unfortunately for him though, when it counted most, he was not able to protect the Hinata-sama. It was a burden he would forever carry on his back, he knew for sure.
His train of thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Hiashi clearing his throat.
"Yes Hiashi-sama?" He straightened from his meditation stance.
"The baby…is crying. Make it stop."
He grimaced. "Yes, Hiashi-sama." He immediately excused himself and jogged towards the nearby nursery where Iji was situated.
Upon arriving, he saw his distant aunts trying desperately to make the baby stop howling. Immediately, he took the child from them and proceeded to rock the infant in his arms, doing a little lullaby dance.
"Rock a bye, baby on the treetop…how I wonder what you are…" he sang softly to the baby's ears.
He knew that what he was doing was not exactly giving him points on the cool, suave future clan head reputation book, but as long as he felt Hiashi-sama's favor resting on him, he was not worried.
When he heard the little baby's sobs soften, pride surged within him. The honor of being the only one recognized by the child was certainly making him feel…very… pleased.
Behind him, he heard his uncle walk in. "The child is interrupting your training, Neji."
He bowed. "My apologies, Hiashi-sama."
"Neji…" Hiashi paused, and then looked pointedly at the women. Immediately, the room was left empty, except for the uncle, the nephew, and the now contentedly-sleeping baby.
"It has been already our tradition not to ask about how a child is brought to the family by a male Hyuuga," began Hiashi, eyeing the infant. "What is important is that we find another flesh and blood carrier of our abilities and skills."
"I am well aware of that, Hiashi-sama," he said quietly.
"Especially when the eldest daughter of the Main family, the inheritor of the Byakugan, has not returned."
Neji detected the sadness in the old man's eyes. No matter how roughly he had treated his eldest daughter, it was undeniable that she was loved dearly by her father. The sad expression on Hiashi-sama's pale eyes was yet to wane ever since he read Hinata's note of apology for leaving the clan to follow her own path years ago.
"This boy is welcomed with open arms by the clan, Neji," continued Hiashi. "However, it concerns me that the child is too young to be cared for by you."
"H-Hiashi-sama…" He wanted to protest. The past few months of fussing over the child had been one of his happiest moments. He, who had only slightly tasted childhood, was rediscovering its joys when playing with Iji. The clan head couldn't mean that the child should be taken away from him just because Iji's hunger strikes at the same time that he trains!
"So I offer you a piece of advice," said Hiashi. It meant, an order he must follow whether he wanted it or not.
"Find this child a nanny."
Uzumaki Naruto smiled at her welcomingly, but it didn't have to take her former teammate's Byakugan to notice that the smile didn't even reach his sea blue eyes. He also looked like he aged ten years or so, with the weariness on his face.
She paused, wondering how to greet him. In the end, she decided to be natural. "Hey Hokage-sama."
He gestured to the available seat in front of him, which she eagerly took.
"Sakura-chan said your records on the missions are awesome." He flipped through the pages of the spreadsheet in front of him. "It says so here…er…it's not here?" He went to the next page quickly, scanned it, then turned to the next. A sweatdrop formed on his head. "Gee, that's funny. I really thought Sakura-chan had placed a bookmark on it or something."
She grinned. She could still see in the man in front of her the chibi Naruto she silently admired back in the Chuunin exams final match. She had always accepted as a fact of life that Hyuuga Neji was a genius, undefeatable, and all-powerful. Imagine her shock when a person everyone thought was a dropout was able to defeat him convincingly.
Being Neji's teammate then, she clamped her mouth shut. But within her, she too, silently congratulated the boy for a job well done.
"Okay, never mind." Naruto dropped the quest for the missing records and clasped his hands together under his chin, reminding her this time of Uchiha Sasuke, one of Neji's obsessions in their first Chuunin exams.
Now that she thought about it, she had been remembering that teammate of hers way too often today. Was it his birthday today and she just forgot?
"You were recommended to me by Granny Tsunade personally," said the Hokage, nodding her way. She couldn't help but feel her ears clap. Her idol remembered who she was!
"So I chose you to carry out a personal mission for me," he continued. "But you must vow secrecy for this mission."
"No problem, Hokage-sama," she said, grinning reassuringly.
"I mean it."
She nodded solemnly.
"Very well." He clasped and unclasped his hands nervously. "After some months, I had finally confirmed the intelligence reports I had asked from Kakashi-sensei."
She gave him a nod, prompting him to continue.
"It has been confirmed…I do have a son."
Her eyes widened. Yes, she was aware of rumors flying around that the Rokudaime has a son, but she didn't give an ounce of concern then, because the mental image of the twelve-year-old Uzumaki Naruto wouldn't reconcile with the image of a Rokudaime having an illegitimate child.
But now that the Hokage himself had spoken…
"W-Wow…you're an early bird…" Realizing what she said, she laughed nervously. "Er…figure of speech…"
He chuckled. "Feel free to react. It couldn't be any worse than Granny Tsunade and Sakura-chan's reactions."
"Oh wait, what do I have got to do with this?" she asked, confused.
"I want to get my son back…but Kakashi-sensei said it wouldn't be easy." Naruto sighed deeply. "The person who has custody over my child is supposedly very mad at me. Hell would be raised before I could get my son from that fellow."
"Maybe that person is the mother of the child?" she teased.
His smile vanished. "She has passed away." Sadness returned to his eyes like an old friend.
She bit her lower lip. "I'm sorry." Quickly, she changed the topic before she could be accused of making the Hokage-sama cry. "Er, so what can I do for you then, Hokage-sama?"
"Get my son for me. You know that person very well, so I'm sure you can think of a strategy."
"I know the person very well?" she asked, surprised.
Naruto smiled wanly. "Of course. You of all people should know Hyuuga Neji the best."
"Oh." Now she wasn't expecting THAT one. It has been a couple of years since the Team Gai had separated, and the last she heard of about him was he went to the woods to train. She, on the other hand, pursued her ambition to become the next Tsunade-sama.
"Will you accept the mission, Tenten?" asked Naruto, his voice not an ordering one of a Hokage's, but of a tired man who only wanted one more thing in life before he would recoil and live in contented bliss with whatever he was able to accumulate in his lifetime.
She gave him a confident smile. "Consider it done, Hokage-sama."
to be continued