Part III: Of Running and Understanding
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Naruto.
This is the last part of the three-part story! Hopefully it was OK to read, though it is rushed, and I sure as heck didn't get any time to put any humor in, but I did try my best. The general idea is all here, and maybe one day I'll make sure that's it's beautiful and nice and edited. Maybe then I won't feel so guilty about procrastinating about this.
Thanks to everyone for their wonderful support. We all know I can't do it without you guys! Hope you enjoy the end of Screwing Destiny!
Tenten found herself sitting before her father's grave, a bouquet of sunflowers gracing the tombstone. The tears that had been flowing freely had dried on her face, leaving only salty trails of residue left.
"Oh, God... What should I do?" She waited, almost expecting an answer. "Give me a sign! Should I leave Kohona and never see him again? I mean, how can I, after what happened?" She groaned in misery. "It wasn't supposed to happen this way!"
She tucked herself into a ball, her chin resting on her knees, eyes hidden. "How could I be so stupid!" The tears welled up again, and she had to bite her lip to keep them from falling. "I only wanted one freaking night. One night where nothing would go wrong. Is that too much to ask!"
Her fist hit the ground before she realized it. The throbbing pain seemed to awake her, and she started her stinging palm in a fresh daze. There were hard calluses from working with weapons all day long, and a scar from where she had once taken a kunai on the back of her hand.
'I bet Neji's princess doesn't have any scars.' The thought ran to her mind, along with a series of sickening images: Neji holding the shadowy girl, Neji pulling her close, Neji leaning down and kissing her much like he had kissed her the night before.
She shook her head, trying to push down the tainted thoughts, and failed. She had already tasted heaven–was it wrong of her to want to refuse everything else?
Time. That was what she needed right now.
Some time away from Kohona, time away from Neji, time away from any thought of love or destiny and soul mates. Time away from everyone, anyone.
She stood up, determined to leave before sunset. If she left now, she could pack and leave before anyone even noticed, even Neji.
'Especially Neji,' she thought to herself. If there was anything she could do right now for her mental help, it was to leave. Leave for now, and hopefully, when Neji goes back to Wind, she'll have forgotten him enough to be able to return to Kohona.
Tenten nodded to herself. Yes, this was the best thing to do.
The rough handle of her backpack was hot and damp in her hands as she carried it one-shouldered. She was nervous, even though, she kept telling herself, she had no reason to be. Whatever she did with her life was her decision and not to be influenced by anyone else, whether he be the love of her life or some sadistic divine power.
She had left a note telling Gai-sensei that she would be leaving early, that she had more to do, more memos to write, and had slid it into his mailbox before sneaking towards the town gates. Hopefully it would be enough to assure him that she, in fact, did have more do to, regardless of the fact her birthday was tomorrow or not.
Tenten's dark brown eyes darted around the town square, hoping that no one she knew would see her with her pack. If she was stopped, then there would be explanations to be made and conversations to run through.
However, she had been lucky before, and she would be lucky now, too. It was close to sundown, so most of the genin she had known were all at home, eating dinner. The ones that weren't were probably on guard duty somewhere else.
When the coast seemed relatively clear, Tenten started walking forward, calmly. If there was anything that could attract attention in a ninja village, it was running around in a nervous fashion.
She kept her head raised high and a slight smile on her face, which disappeared as soon as she got to the path leading to the gate. The stone benches on the sides of the road were familiar and yet, for once, she was glad she was leaving them.
The path wound slightly, showing what the trees had momentarily shielded. She could now see the gates, standing tall and almost forbidden. Hiking the backpack higher, Tenten set her jaw in a last, determined act, and started walking closer.
She set her palm against the wood of the gate, closing her eyes. She was leaving again, the home she had once known, with the people she once loved. And the one she still loved, she bitterly reminded herself.
"You're leaving again."
Tenten tensed. That voice was from her imagination. There was no way... No way at all that...
The second statement was sheer proof that she wasn't imaging anything. He really was there, and she had to face him, because running away was no longer an option.
She turned around, eyes hidden behind her bangs. She snuck a look upwards and was met by her dream and nightmare.
"Neji. What are you doing here?" She kept her voice carefully guarded and as neutral as possible. Weakness wasn't an option, either.
"I thought that you would be here." His silvery eyes tried to find... something, anything, in her face and failed. Their roles had been exchanged–now she was the one without words and answers, and he was the one questioning everything. "Why?"
"A kunoichi must complete every mission she is given," she recited dully. "My mission is in Lightning Country. You know that."
His jaw clenched. She was being stubborn and stupid and she didn't seem to realize what he was trying to say.
The Hyuuga were never the most adept in expression.
"Your mission can be terminated. You've been in Lightning for six years."
She started to shake her head. "No, I really—"
"You can." Like her, his voice was as expressionless as could be. They were on dangerous territory, and their new relationship had yet to be established. "The Hokage would agree to it. You've been away for too long."
She exploded. "Why should you care! You have a fiancee–go back to her! We're not 13 anymore, Neji! We're not teammates anymore! You have your life, and I have mine. Leave me be!" She glared, allowing anger to overrule the need to feel sorrow.
Neji looked as if he had been slapped. His eyes were wide in shock; she could remember the last time she had seen him surprised.
Now was her chance. All she needed to do was to verbally stab him one more time, and she would be free. She could go on with her life, and finally live without any past sense of 'it could have been', or worse, fate and destiny and that other crap Neji spouted and she no longer believed.
So why was it so hard for her lips to move? Why couldn't she find the strength to throw those words out?
He took a step forward.
"I... I... Just leave me alone, Neji!"
She turned so he couldn't see the tears welling from her eyes, and fled. Her eyes burning, her heart breaking, Tenten ran. Her feet pounded against the ground as she began to fly towards, from limb to limb of old trees.
Neji always did this to her, brought her weaknesses that she couldn't afford. And even that was part of him. Staying with Neji had taught her the important of strength, so nothing, no one, could crush you down.
'Keep your heart shadowed. You don't need it, as long as you are strong. Strength is, after all, the only thing keeping you real.'
She had nodded–so serious!–and listened to every word he said, because he hardly ever said any, and those that he did say were the ones most important. She had believed in him, then.
She kept running, determined to go faster, to make herself stronger. If she steeled herself away from any emotions, she would be alright. She would survive this.
A jolt of pain stopped her from leaping onto the next tree limb. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. She looked down to her ankle, now bent out of shape from landing incorrectly. It throbbed insistently, and she cursed herself.
Luck? Whatever she had, she obviously already used up.
Tenten tried putting weight on the ankle. The pain was so immense, she felt a drop of blood on her tongue. She had no other option–she had to stop for now.
Everything went wrong. Everything always went wrong. Whether she was alone or with him or with anyone else, she was always hopeless.
Miserable, Tenten dropped to the ground, tears welling once again from her eyes and falling thick as rain upon the ground.
A depressingly familiar voice answered her. "Because we can't survive alone."
She shook her head hard, not raising her eyes to meet his. Denial wasn't just a river in Egypt–it was the better half of Tenten's live.
She felt his warm, calloused hand upon her foot, gently but firmly feeling the bones for breaks. Moments later, she heard a soft zipping sound; he had pulled out a roll of bandages to support the sprain.
As he wound the stripes of cloth around her ankle, she choked out again, "Why?" 'Why must you be here? Why can't you just leave me alone so I can forget you?'
He was silent for a moment before answering. "Once, a long time ago, you helped me. Now you'll left me do the same." Neji's hand moved from her ankle to her face, prying her head from her knees. "Come back to Kohona with me to get this set." He motioned to her sprain. "Then, tomorrow morning, if you still want to leave, I won't stop you."
Tenten stopped and thought about it. Though deep in her heard she knew that Neji wasn't going to take 'no' for an answer anyway, she still wanted to refuse. In fact, there was a small part of her that wanted to leave him again, just so he could feel a sliver of the pain she seemed to live off of.
"Do I have a choice?" She cracked a transparently fake smile.
He shook his head, though not in an arrogant way, with the smirk he always seemed to be wearing.
Neji moved his arms so he could carry her bridal style.
"What are you doing?"
"Obviously, you can't walk. So I'm carrying you. We'll get there faster." His voice was all calm authority and reason–she had no excuses to give, to tell him that she didn't want him to touch her, not now and not ever, because every time he did, she would remember it.
It was unlikely those memories would ever disappear.
As she felt his arms move around her, Tenten tensed. It took all her willpower not to push him away. However, he made no sign that they had had sex the night before, much less anything sexual. Cooly professional, his began to run towards the gates she had come through not even two hours ago.
She was exhausted, she realized now, and her ankle was still throbbing. She closed her eyes slowly, relaxing unconsciously.
Moments later, Tenten had fallen asleep in the arms of the man she once loved, the one she still loved, the one that was always out of reach.
It was the first thought that came to her mind as she realized where she was, once again.
In Neji's bed, warm and surrounded by comforters that smelled distinctly of him. A slight breeze wandered in from the open window, accompanied by the scent of fresh-mowed grass.
Wind, grass, him.
Her mind was hazy, still drifting towards dreamland, when she remembered again why she was there in the first place.
The voice shocked her awake. "What happened!" After her recent encounter with the dangers of forgetting everything until it was too late, she had grown quite paranoid.
Neji's face came into view. There were shadows under his eyes, making them seem even darker in comparison. "You feel asleep on the way back."
She blinked a few times in confusion. When the image of what happened the night before came clearly into view, she quickly swung her feet out of the bed, eager to leave Kohona once and for all.
She forgot about her sprain.
Giving a smell yelp of pain, Tenten once more tumbled towards the ground.
Neji caught her again.
Tenten pushed him away, instead opting for popping down to sit on the bed. She glared towards him with contemptuous eyes.
"You said I could leave," she pointed out.
"Not until you hear me out." A hint of pleading entered his normally expressionless eyes.
"Go talk to your fiancee if you want to hear your own voice, Neji," she spat out. "You promised you wouldn't stop me the next morning. That's today."
The air around them tensed. "I don't love her," he quietly murmured.
"What?" Had she mistaken her ears?
"Sumi. I don't love her."
He was just saying that to get her defenses down–she knew it. But even inside, her resolutions were faltering. "Why not? She's a princess."
"She is not you."
It was strange to hear him, so defenseless and weak. She was reminded of a small child, lost in the world he didn't understand.
He let out an exasperated sigh, his eyes piercing as they stared into hers, asking for acceptance and understanding. "Tenten... I always knew you liked me." He paused before continuing again. "When we were kids, that is. But I was too involved in the Branch House Main House thing to notice. And then, when we graduated, and you left, I thought... I felt that something was missing." He laughed sardonically, without humor. "I even talked to Gai about it."
His face turned somber. "I didn't listen to him when he said I loved you. That's why I left, too. And when they told me that an alliance between Wind and Fire was needed, I agreed to the engagement. I thought I was doing the right thing by forgetting you."
Tenten felt tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. Damn him, damn him.
"I was wrong. When I saw you at Hinata-sama's wedding, I knew I was wrong. Maybe I knew before then, but I never admitted it." He looked to her. "I'm sorry."
She shook her head, hard. "Stop it. Stop it, Neji. It would never work. So... Just... Just stop."
"No, you stop. Stop running. I tried that. It didn't work." He grabbed her hand, clenched in a fist.
She looked to him with glistening tears in her eyes. "Don't you understand? It'd never work."
"We could make it work." He was steady, silently shooting down all the doubts around her.
"We're different now!"
"We're still the same people, aren't we?"
"People make mistakes." He saw that she was shaking. "Why are you so afraid?"
"Please don't do this, Neji. I don't think... I don't think I can handle it a second time." She was pleading with him–she hated herself for the weakness.
His arms were around her, strong and protecting. She stiffened at the contact but didn't stop herself from realizing that it felt good to be protected, if even for a moment, if even for a lie.
"Stay with me," he whispered.
"It won't work," she murmured into her shoulder, knowing even then that she had already lost.
He pulled away before looking down to her face. "It was fate. It will work." With those words, he leaned down and claimed her lips with a kiss. When he loosened his grip and looked at her again, he knew her answer before he even repeated his question.
"Stay with me?"
Tenten's heart wept for the opportunities missed, the years wasted away. She knew now why he ignored her, why she had ran. And she knew what her heart wanted, for once. Her heard wanted to be home, and this time, she wasn't going to refuse it.
It was her birthday, a day before she had to report to her superior and tell him that she was quitting her mission, and two days before she accepted his marriage proposal that Tenten finally understood the meaning of "Happily Ever After."
End Note: Love it? Hate it? Tell me what you thought!I would love to hear what you thought of this lowly little thing, and I hope you did enjoy following its process. I'd just like to add in a last little shameless plug that I keep putting off! I have my own little forum, one that supports NejiTen, SasuSaku, NaruHina, and ShikaIno. I will hug you if you go, have yourself a little visit and leave a note! www . fanfiction . net / ft / 429838 / 3316 / 1 /(remove spaces)