Part I: Gin and Tonics
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Naruto.
Originally, this was going to be a gift-fic... However, as my gift-reciever asked for a humorous fic instead of a more dramatic fic like this one, I had to write another fic, Habitually Obsessive. All the same, I really enjoyed writing this 3-part story, which is hopefully not as sappy as I think it is.
This is set a few years after Team Gai graduate... When Tenten has a little too much 'fun juice' and a little too much Neji (–snicker–). It'll be in three parts (though it was originally going to be a one-shot, it turned out to be far too long!).
Hope you all enjoy this!
It was two days before her birthday, three days before she had to report back to her superior, and four days before she had to return to work that Tenten had found herself ordering yet another drink at a classy bar.
She was sitting alone, and though she hated to admit it, separated in more ways than just physical from Kohona and the classmates she had grown up with. The years had taken their toll and her case was certainly no different. Like most genin teams, Team Gai had broken up slowly, with each teammate going their separate ways to their separate dreams. It was a helpless cycle, a part of growing up that each of them didn't quite want to give into, because although ones personal dreams could only be in reach if bonds were broken, the happy, familiar days training together didn't quite disappear altogether.
For her, the bonds were broken a little easier, the rifts between her teammates a little deeper.
She knew why, and she didn't blame anyone, including herself. Little less than a year after she passed the jounin exam, she was asked to go on an extended mission as an ambassador to Lightning Country.
That extended mission turned out to be six months long, and then a year. Then two years, then three and four and five, and finally, at current count, six. This was her first visit back since her father's death four years ago, and for a woman of only twenty-five, six years was a mighty long time for friends to become strangers.
That's why she was here, drinking herself into a light stupor as she watched the wedding guests twirl around in their formal clothes, the women in silks and velvets and the men dashing and handsome. And here she was, making sure that she drank enough to make those people seem like a trillion glittery colors, so she was as isolated as she felt.
She swirled the bitter liquid in its lowball glass as she organized her recollections. Although the somewhat tepid alcohol allowed her to refuse dance offers and dinner offers and other offers far less appetizing with little guilt, it still wouldn't refuse the dreadful loneliness. Her lips turned to a scowl, and, tipping her head back, Tenten knocked back what was left in the glass down her throat. It burned on its way down, but when she opened her eyes again, she was pleased to see a little bit more of the world had melted away.
From the corner of her chocolate-colored eyes she could see the bride and groom, holding each other close as they spun in slow, lazy circles. It was to no one's surprise that the Rokudaime would and had married the Hyuuga Heiress. She seen them at the funeral, the dead-last no one had expected to succeed, and the stuttering girl whose hidden strength seemed buried until she met him. Tenten had also seen his arm around her waist and the way her body just slightly leaned against his.
She was no recognized prodigy or number one rookie, but that didn't mean she was stupid. Tenten knew what that warm, flush glow on a person's face meant, and the newlyweds were no different.
She grimaced as her eyes then landed on another couple. And another. And another, and another. Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Sasuke, who had returned to Kohona two years earlier. Naru Shikamaru and Temari, the girl who had once defeated her. A young man she realized was Konohmaru and a pretty blue-haired girl. So many people she didn't recognize... Even Kurenai and Asuma were swaying close.
And here she was, drinking herself silly, and wondering what ever happened to her love life and why the hell it was missing.
It would be a lie for her to say she had never gotten admirers, or even lovers for that matter. Tenten had never been beautiful, perhaps, but that didn't mean she didn't have a rather steady stream of suitors. It was, perhaps, her intimidating prowess as Weapon's Mistress, or the aloofness that seemed to enter her being as she grew older that kept Mr. Right from finding her. In any case, Tenten hadn't gotten intimacy in a long time, and at that moment, nothing seemed better than the option of getting roaring drunk and laid.
She waved at the bartender for another drink while her eyes again scanned the room. Someone was missing...
Internally, she knocked off all the genin teams in her head. From where she stood, she could see most of them. She had seen Gai-sensei earlier, pulling Rock Lee away from Haruno Sakura and towards yet another female candidate, or victim, as she saw them, to introduce.
Being the only regular correspondent from Kohona she had, she had learned from Gai-sensei's assignment letters that after Uchiha Sasuke returned to Kohona and Sakura nursed him back to health, they had grown close and gotten together. Lee, she was sure, had been devastated. As for Neji...
That was who was missing! Berating herself silently, Tenten quickly began looking around the room. And then she remembered. Neji had also been sent on an extended mission.
The war had sent many jounin to either foreign countries as ambassadors or as warriors to stand ready for any hint of unrest. Sound and Orochimaru had been destroyed, but that didn't mean their former allies were sated. Carefully placed alliances, including marriage and vows of servitude, had made uneasy bounds between all the major ninja villages.
Whereas Tenten had been sent to Lightning, Neji had been sent to Wind.
She gulped down the better half of her gin and tonic as she tried to wonder why he wasn't here with them, at this glorious union between two people who were happy and together. She heard the bitter edge in her thoughts, looked down at the glass, and finished it.
Hinata was Neji's cousin and the heir to the Main House. He should be here, and even if he didn't want to go, tradition would have forced him to, anyway.
So where was he?
A nasty little voice inside her head quickly threw out possible reasons. He didn't want to see them. He was on a mission set by his superiors he couldn't refuse. He had duties in Wind far more important than some walk down nostalgia lane. For all she knew, he'd avoided the wedding as to not have to see her.
She wasn't going to lie. During her genin and chuunin years, she had grown close to Neji, had nursed a carefully harbored crush. Of course those feelings of affection were ever acted upon.
It wasn't as if she was afraid Neji was going to hurt her. Regardless of whether she thought she loved him or not, it was true that he was her best friend. However, it was because of that that she refused to admit this out loud. Their friendship, she knew, was far more important than any feelings of infatuation.
Eyes going cloudy as she remembered him, Tenten couldn't suppress a long held sigh. They had gotten older, and drifted slowly apart. It wasn't Neji's fault, or even her fault. He wanted to abolish the Branch system, and she wanted to become better as a ninja, more like the woman who had been and still was her idol.
He wanted to stay in the past, caught in a wrong that could easily be righted when Hinata came to power, while she strived for the future. He didn't want to continue just yet–she could not make herself wait.
If friendship was a hindrance, she didn't want to know what love could do.
All that was left of them, and what once was, were the memories that separated them as much as they held them together, and for that, Tenten was grateful.
Even at her father's funeral, they had been distanced, careful with each other. He, perhaps more than she, had treated their relationship as a fragile silk thread, ready to break at any moment.
She remembered him, the somber black suit, the way his eyes seemed glazed. Somehow she knew it reminded him far too much of his own father's death. She swore she had seen his handsome face flicker between loss and the need to comfort.
Before she knew it, she had moved into his arms. For that single moment, everything melted away.
Smiling briefly at the six empty glasses on the table, she knew that even the most potent of drinks couldn't make her feel that same heat as Neji's touch.
She ordered another one anyway. Heat, regardless whether it was artificial heat or not, was something she needed at the moment, a lone woman at a wedding, drinking herself away at the bar.
However, as she reached for the glass, a strong, masculine hand gripped her wrist, stopping her.
Anger tingled throughout her body as she whipped around to face her adversary. Unfortunately, her movements were far too quick for her alcohol-stricken senses. As she tumbled to the ground, the same hands caught her, steadied her.
"Hey, buddy, what the hell do you think you're doing!" Tenten yanked herself out of his grasp and looked up, glaring.
Her eyes flashed furiously as they traveled up from his shoes. Internally, she approved of the fit chest, the fine suit, the proud, aristocratic way he held himself. Externally, however, she was a wild, spitting, drunk hellcat who just wanted everything to be over with so she could just go home.
She gasped when she saw the face.
Steeling herself, Tenten quickly ripped herself from her former teammate's grasp, eyes glittering angrily as they fought to stay focused on his face. "For the love of Tsunade-sama, Hyuuga Neji! Get your hands off me!" The sudden movement churned her stomach, more so than when she had almost fallen; she quickly tried to settle the urge to hurl on his suit.
Grimly, she sat back down, jaw set. Seeing the same calm, almost arrogant expression he always seemed to be wearing, she thought that maybe throwing up on his suit wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. Let's see how Hyuuga Neji-san can wear that expression with vomit all over him!
"You're drunk." His voice was a little deeper, but still the same as when they were still on relative speaking terms. Cool, smooth, rich. Comforting, or so she once thought.
"You noticed!" Tenten didn't even try to keep the biting sarcasm from her words. "What other obvious things do you see with your Byakugan, Neji-sama?"
A lesser man would have stepped back at the acid-laced words. Neji, however, stepped closer.
"Let me take you home, Tenten. It isn't safe for you here."
When his hand reached for hers again, Tenten angrily leaned farther away. "Don't touch me, Hyuuga Neji! I can take care of myself!"
His pearly eyes glanced at the empty glasses, and then back to her wobbly form. "I'm sure you usually can, but not when you're like this," he said drily.
"Like what?" Even Tenten heard the sulky, childish tone stuck in her voice.
"You're drunk," Neji repeated.
"Yes, I believe we've established that fact already. Now what?"
"Let me take you home, Tenten." Was that a hint of pleading in his voice?
"Why! I can take care of myself!" Didn't they just have this conversation?
His composer lost, Neji angrily waved an arm out to the rest of the wedding guests, particularly to the men who had asked her to dance and gotten refused. "You're not safe here!"
While the alcohol-affected part of Tenten was still rearing its ugly head, another part had become to emerge. Could it be that Neji actually cared about her safety?
"What are you talking about? Of course I'm safe!" Stubbornly, Tenten stayed rooted to her seat.
"There's men around here!" If she didn't know better, Tenten would have thought Neji looked mighty flustered.
"You're a man," she quickly pointed out.
Now Neji was definitely a little red. "Y-yes, but, someone could t-take... advantage of you here!"
The angel on her shoulder was touched. The devil, the lust demon raging out of control, however, was not. It whispered horribly naughty things to her, poking at her hidden desires in a most annoying manner.
And, being drunk as she was, Tenten wasn't putting up much of a fight. 'In fact,' she told herself, 'Why the hell not?'
Tenten suddenly edged closet, leaning close to his face and pushing her arms together to accentuate what the V-neck of her cocktail dress hid. "Would you? Take advantage of me, that is." A sweet sense of success rose as she saw that definitely flustered look on his face.
"N-no!" Unconsciously, he pulled back.
With a suggestive little pout, Tenten leaned even closer. "Why not?"
Neji looked away from her face, instead finding the other barstool more interesting. She could tell that Neji was on the verge of fidgeting—something he hadn't started doing earlier because of his training and pride. "Because. You're my teammate. And I care about you enough not to do—"
Before he could even finish the sentence, Tenten had already pulled his face to hers, and sealed his lips with a long awaited heated kiss.