Set it Free

Disclaimer: Naruto doesn't belong to me.

Summary: You never know what you've lost until it's gone. And then, and only then, do you realize just how good you had it. After nearly three years, Tenten wonders if having feelings for the ice cold Hyuga Neji was really so smart after all. Maybe it's time to move on, find something new and start over. But what about him?

A/N:I've loved the nejiten pairing to bits, and tenten has always been one of my favorite characters. But she seems like such a self-efficient person, and one who prides herself on that. So it irked me that nobody would think that maybe Tenten isn't the sort to pine away for one man. She's practical right? And first, let me come right out and say it, this fic is pretty short. 5 chapters. Ok?

Story dedicated to Thisismystory, because if she weren't there to get me off my butt, I would never finish this.

(And BTW, Neji and Tenten are both jounin in this story, with Neji also an ANBU member.)

…and also made some edits. –02.5.06


"Again."

Tenten slowly heaved herself up, readying her weapons once again, though with considerably much less vigor than she had before. She was exhausted, sweat trickling down her forehead, hair damp from the strenuous training session she'd just had.

There was a slight breeze blowing in from the West that day, though only very slight. The summer sun was altogether too bright and hot for a day of strenuous training, and Tenten savored what she could.

"Just hold on, Neji."

Hyuga Neji merely hned, calm as could be, with several beads of sweat serving as the only indications that the training had even slightly tired him out, though that may have been due to heat, and not necessarily training. It was slightly depressing, to say in the least. He resumed into his stance; waiting for his counterpart to ready herself, though not without one last, "hurry up."

He was Hyuga Neji after all. He wasn't tired, he wanted to train, and he wouldn't be denied.

She wondered why he didn't care. She'd asked herself that very question countless times, each time with no answer in sight. She mentally scoffed. She was the one who made sure he ate so he wouldn't starve, or rest when he was clearly entirely worn out. Though knowing him, he probably just thought her a nuisance.

And she didn't know why she cared half so much; it wasn't as if she reaped any benefits other than a sparring partner, though she had to admit that she was getting better. But she supposed she knew what really lurked in her heart. It had grown from just a mere fluttering to a rapid beating whenever he touched her, brushed by her, and the feelings were unstoppable now. It was love, she remembered she had grudgingly admitted about 2 months ago, over something as paltry as washing dishes, though the silence of living alone in a small apartment offered way too much time for thought.

" Are you ready?", a stoic voice asked.

She sighed. Back to it then.

"Yes, Neji."

She failed to see Neji's eyes flicker with an unsaid emotion for just a split second before reverting back to its normal pearly state.

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It was nearly five hours later before Neji had deemed it a good time to stop, and Tenten sank down onto the grass with relief. Glancing at her partner, she noticed with a hint of smugness that he had not been completely unaffected by the day's weather, and he himself had sweat quite a bit.

Neji turned to leave, after having gathered up his scattered kunai.

Tenten bit her lip, wondering whether to make one last ditch effort in convincing him to go somewhere with her. He had refused her many offers multiple times; even her attempts to invite him to eat some ramen at Ichiraku, even though it was clear that Neji was drop dead hungry.

"Hey Neji."

He hned in acknowledgement.

"Do you want to go get a drink with me or something?" Her hope swelled just half a second before it burst.

"No thanks."

Her head drooped slightly in disappointment, though not too much just in case he saw.

"Oh. Maybe next time then."

And with another signature 'hn', he disappeared into the trees, in the direction of the Hyuga compound.

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Half an hour later found her wandering through the crowded streets of Konoha, admiring various weapons and items on display, completely skipping over the clothing stores because they were not worth her time.

Her thoughts turned back to the unattainable object of her affections, and really just how stupid it had been of her to fall in love with the stoic, powerful Hyuga Neji.

And it was this subject that sparked the furious debate of, whether Neji cared at all, and whether he would ever acknowledge her in any way other than just a teammate and sparring partner. And every so often she'd pass by the random couple making their disgusting goo goo eyes at each other, and wonder whether they had no shame at all. And then she'd wonder whether she'd ever do that if by some chance her and Neji got together. And then everything would come back full circle and she'd be right where she started. It was quite depressing really.

The simple things though- like handing her his water bottle when he saw she was thirsty, or tending to her first when the team got hurt and made her stay in love so long. And the many years she had spent with him had shown her that the stoic figure was capable of emotions, though he didn't often show it. She felt proud, knowing that she was one of the few people who had seen past the Hyuga mask of ice. Even though it wasn't necessarily her to have cracked the mask, because that honor was undisputedly Naruto's.

You can't force a person to love you. She had realized that after she had watched countless girls around Konoha chase after their crushes of the month.
So maybe it was better to just not try to break a Hyuga's hard cool exterior, because even after two months of hints and urgings to go with her anywhere, none of it had worked. And she was glad that Neji really didn't seem any the wiser about her affections for him, or else it'd be horribly embarrassing, and downright humiliating if he had noticed but chose to ignore them, or even reject them. Maybe it'd be better, she admitted grudgingly, kicking a stray pebble out of the way. If she quit now, she could get over him, find someone else; start over.

"It's not a horrible idea." She remarked absentmindedly aloud, turning around and starting to make her way back to her apartment.

She knew it'd be hard, because one doesn't fall out of love just like that, and neither does one forget about the person you've been thinking about for the last three years over the course of a day either. But she'd do it, and she'd get over him, and she'd move on.

Her eyes hardened and she steeled her resolve.

She was self-efficient, and had been for most of her life. She had never been boy-crazy like Ino or Sakura, never needing to depend on boys to be her knight-in-shining-armor, and she didn't need to now. She didn't need guys to make her happy. But the idea of having somebody out there just for you was something that Tenten secretly wished were fact, because it's not like she really wanted to be alone for the rest of her life. But if Neji wasn't that guy, well…

She could live with that.

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A week later, another scorching day for Konoha. The afternoon's temperature was unbearably steaming, without a cloud in the sky, save for a few wisps here and there.
It was a quiet day, not many wanting to be out on the streets, preferring the relatively cool atmosphere of their homes, free to blast their air conditioners and settle down for some ice cold lemonades.

But the air was especially thick and heavy in a small western section of Konoha, the villagers living there were quick to note, and had all moved out for the day, hoping to seek refuge with friends or family. It was queer, they had all decided, that only that section of the city would be susceptible to such un-bearing heat, even more so than their friends, who only lived a short while away.

Words could not express the anger and dangerous chakra that rolled off Hyuga Neji in waves as he watched from behind a building, two figures sitting in one of the outdoor tables of a sidewalk café. Inzuka Kiba and Tenten, talking rather animatedly about god-knows-what, rather oblivious to the steaming man just around the corner.


Please Review. I know it's a bit short but bear with me here, this went through a TON of revisions...you should have seen my first attempts…

Criticisms and ways to improve are appreciated, because I can always improve in some way.