E: Wow… It's definitely been a long time since I've looked at this chapter. Well, the aim is to try and get through this without altering too much (I've already failed), but adding a bit more substance to it and getting rid of overly tacky things.

So, basically… this would take place somewhere around a couple of days or so after the end of Blossom

Paper Shuriken

Chapter One

Tenten sat in the middle of the park, ripping up squares of paper beneath the dappled shade of an old oak tree. She was eighteen years old and, for the first time in her life, she had not touched anything with a blade for more than a week.

"Hey, Tenten!" Sakura said perkily as she and Ino jogged past for the second time that day.

"Wait… you were sitting here before, doing the same thing." Ino turned around and walked up to the older kunoichi. "Has anything been happening?"

Tenten shrugged and threw more paper shuriken onto her accumulating pile. "Nothing much."

She didn't even look up, but her fingers tensed and shook.

Ino shrugged and returned to her jog with Sakura as they gossiped about various things. Sasuke was a common topic; there seemed to be nothing that he could do that could go unnoticed.

Neji was the fifth to come and see her that day, and only at Hinata's behest, because Neji was the only one Tenten would ever 'listen' to, in her words.

The clouds above were looking ominously grey but Tenten took no heed to the sky; her attention was all focused on the tiny paper stars… just poor imitations of the many weapons that she had taken for granted.

"Tenten?" Neji put down his umbrella as he sat beside her within the roots of the ancient tree.

"Neji," Tenten replied somberly.

"Is there something wrong?"

"No," she replied curtly, not looking up once again. She was getting sick of these people pestering her. "Of course not."

"You're lying." He said with a humorous inflection in his voice. "Don't make me have to torture you to make you tell the truth."

"You'd never do that," she snapped at him.

"Oh, well there are many forms of torture."

"Nothing's worse than my current one, so whatever you're going to say won't sway me." Her voice was clipped and she paused to crack her knuckles before reaching for another square of black paper.


It was never just a statement when he said it like that. It was a command; one that she could never disobey. Her fingers, numbing with the cold, stilled.

"Look at me." She looked up, her fringe partially obscuring her left eye. She made no move to flick it out of the way.

Neji did it for her instead, tucking the long bangs behind her ear. They didn't speak for a long time, because he already knew what was happening. If he hadn't, he would have already asked her why she hadn't turned up at training exactly twelve hours and twenty three minutes ago.

"Why?" His voice was quiet when he spoke to her.

A small smile lit up her face.

"I cut my hair. My mother didn't take it very well because she still sees me as her 'darling baby girl'."

Reaching behind her head, she removed the pen that bound her hair in a tight bun. Her locks, once long and flowing past her waist, had been roughly cropped about a hand's width below her shoulder.

Neji smirked.

"Your punishment?"

"I can't touch anything with a blade for the next three months." Her face sobered.

"I went by your house, actually. She was still moving crates into the shed. I offered to help, but she was convinced that I already knew what had happened and that you'd sent me just to steal your weapons back."

"The shed leaks, Neji." Tenten shuddered. "It's damp in there. They'll just rust, sitting there without someone to sharpen and polish them."

Neji, at not knowing what to say, remained silent.

"I want to go home," she said suddenly, packing all of her shuriken into her bag.

Neji opened his umbrella to shield them against the raindrops and they walked back to her house.

Tenten fiddled with the last three shuriken she had made, flipping them constantly between her calloused fingers.

"You don't need to have your weapons to train," Neji said quietly, when they stopped in front of her door.

"I know."

"Just come and see me when you're ready."

"I will." Tenten's voice was empty and toneless as she continued to stare at the dull mimics of shiny steel that she already missed the feel of.

She grabbed his wrist and pressed the black stars into his palm. Finally, she met his eyes.

"Goodnight, Neji."

Without waiting for a response, she unlocked her front door and slipped quietly inside, into the warmth of her home.

The Hyuuga sighed and slipped the shuriken into his pockets.

"Goodnight, Tenten."