Here you go. The last chapter.
Lee and Gai-sensei give Tenten and I a cheerful grin before setting off to train a ways from us. Mostly because Tenten's weapons usually make the habit of ricocheting off my chakra.
But that doesn't particularly matter right now, because I've been dreading having to face Tenten alone. And I think she's been dreading it too.
She gives me an even look, one that doesn't show any specific emotion.
I want to smooth things over, but I don't know what to say.
"Let's just get on with it," she says, walking briskly to a more open area. She knows there's no point in trying to hide behind a tree in one of our battles because I can easily spot her with my byakugan. Plus, trees and brush limit her weapon attacks.
As she walks past me, I notice her pressing her lips together. She has been dreading it.
I sigh and follow her.
Once we reach a large clearing, surrounded by old oaks and sycamores, she turns on her heel and stares at me. She's waiting.
"Tenten," I begin again. "I don't want what happened yesterday to come between us. Our training is important."
Her copper eyes flash angrily. "Training?" she hisses.
This isn't good.
"That's all you-" she begins, but cuts herself off. She stares at me, heatedly, before looking away. "Nevermind," she says. "Nevermind." Her tone holds a sad ring to it.
A guilty jolt runs through me, reminding me again that I did this to her.
"What?" I ask. "That's all you what?"
"Say it," I dare her. "Say that training is all I care about."
Her arms are crossed and her fingertips dig in her upper arm, making the skin around it bulge. She is silent.
"Say that I don't care about you at all," I demand, feeling a rush of rage shake my voice. "Say it!"
She looks up at me sharply, seeming surprised at hearing my anger. And she grows angrier still. Her eyes narrow.
I step toward her when she is still silent. She doesn't step back, but I can see the alarm in her eyes. Rage quickly replaces it.
"Don't tell me what to say!" she says, furiously. "And don't talk like you know how I feel!"
"I don't care how you feel. All I care about is training, right?"
Her eyes flash. "Shut up!"
"Why don't you make me?" I taunt. I want her to hit me.
The smack of her palm hitting my face echoed through the woods.
My cheek stings, but I succeeded.
Tenten looks horrorstricken.
"N-Neji-kun…" Her hand goes to cover her mouth, the same hand that hit me.
I watch her eyes fill with tears.
One trails down her cheek, and my hand reaches up and brushes it away.
"Don't get so upset," I say. "I was asking for it."
She steps back, anger flaring up again. "Don't do that," she hisses. "Don't try to be nice to me. I don't want your pity."
All of the sudden, I understand why she didn't want my apology yesterday. Apologies just make it worse, along with showing kindness. I'm making it harder for her by showing her this sort of intimacy, even if it's light.
My hand drops by my side.
Tenten suddenly steps back and turns away. I catch her around her arms before she bolts away again.
I hold her tightly.
She trembles. Out of what, I don't know, but she doesn't struggle.
I don't want to hear what she has to say.
I kiss her before the words come out.
I decide to embrace the fear.