A/N; I just got to wondering why nobody (other than a rare few) ever thinks about Tenten as a child. And, Tenten being my favorite character despite her lack of background, I have chosen to give it to you.

Tree

-

Five

She was tall for her age, and that was where her problems began. She always stood at least three inches taller than the girls, and two taller than the boys. She lacked grace in a shameful way, as well as the cuteness the other little girls had.

She wasn't a happy child. Her parents, dead, had left her alone. This insured the fact that she would fight for herself, and rely on her own wits. This is why, even falling short in prettiness and popularity, she could still pick a fight with a boy three years her senior and, without batting an eyelash, beat him in combat. So what if she lacked femininity? What good would it do her in battle? No good, she assured herself, no good at all. And she was fine with that.

But did they really have to tease her bout her fetish with weapons?

Apparently so. And that's why dusk found her sitting in the tree.

"One little bluebird... One little nest... Three little baby birds... Mommy knows best..." Tenten sang softly, resting her head back against the tree, gazing at the birds not three yards from her. She sighed and wrapped her tiny arms around her legs. She did everything, from counting as high as she could possibly imagine, to rocking dangerously back and forth on the thick branch, but she would not cry. "Mommy knows best..." She would not cry...

Tenten listened to the faraway sound of children laughing and playing, and mothers and fathers happily, contentedly calling them in. She wished silently that she could be like them... To have loving parents... To have friends...

But, that was what her weapons were for. That's why she had the habbit of kissing each one before she threw it at her target.

70 percent accuracy, every time...

-

Six

She plucked a leaf from a branch beside her and twirled it around between her thumb and index finger. She blew on it, watching the blur of bright green before her eyes hopefully. Tenten rested her cheek on her knee and smiled lightly. She let the leaf go.

She was bigger now, and stronger. All of her teachers at the academy complimented her on her skills with weapons, Advanced for her age, they say. She frowned.

They didn't know the half of it.

Of course, because of the compliments she recieved, Tenten was often teased and ridiculed by her peers.

"Teachers' pet, the gangly, teachers' pet! Oh, I didn't know a tree could be a teachers' pet!"

She had threateningly pulled out a shuriken from beneath her old, worn blouse and snarled at the children, who ran away, fear clear on their faces. She could take them on any day.

But their words had stung.

"Hey. I know you from class."

Tenten, surprised, looked down. A boy was looking up at her in her perch. He smiled cutely.

She couldn't help but smile back.

"Yeah, I am. Who're you?"

He looked confused.

"You don't know me?"

A closer look told her whom he was. She smiled wider; He was the one person her age who meet her height.

"Won't your parents want you back soon, little Hyuuga? They'll get worried, I bet."

He smiled and shook his head, long brown hair following the movements of his head.

"No. They trust me. What about your parents?"

Tenten looked away.

"They... uh... They trust me, too," she lied, plastering a smile back on her face. The boy looked at her for a moment before placing a hand on her tree.

"Can I come up?"

She nodded, and grabbed his hand, hauling him up when he reached her. He brushed his dirty hands on his shirt and looked at her again.

"So, how did you find me, Hyuuga?"

"Neji. And, I wasn't really looking for you. I was running away from the girls."

Saying the word put a look on his face that gave her the impression that somthing awful smelling was laced under his nose. She laughed.

"I'm a girl too, you know," she stated, tugging at his hair teasingly. He smirked and.

"You're not like them."

"Good," Tenten said, and balanced herself to standing on the branch. She walked the length of the branch to him, arms outstretched at her sides, and she stopped, hands un in the air, and she flipped backwards. Neji cried out in surprise and his hand was covering his heart when she sat back down, grinning smugly.

"Don't scare me like that!" he said loudly, his frown turning into a grin when she smiled with her teeth, and he leaned over and gently pinched her nose

"Aw, don't be such a 'fraidy-cat, Neji!" she laughed. His laugh followed hers.

"You're really good, you know. I didn't know a girl could hit so close to her target, or do anything like THAT; most of them can hardly keep up."

Tenten grinned, and stuck her chin upward proudly.

"Seventy-five percent accuracy."

-

Seven

"What's that?" Tenten asked curiously, poking the cloth on Neji's forehead. He wrinkled his nose and pulled away.

"I don't want you to see," he mumbled, covering the cloth with his hands. She smiled sweetly and folded her knees under her, clasped her hands, and stuck them under her chin.

"Pretty please, Neji? Just this once, and you'll never have to show me again. And I won't tell anyone; it'll be our secret. Promise," she said, holding her small pinkie out. He looked between her face and her pinkie, and locked his with hers, and then unwrapped the bandages from around his forehead.

"Uncle made me get it," he said, a little embarrassed, and she gazed up at a green X, with two curved lines flowing to the side. "Father says it's a caged bird. He says that all Branch members recieve this at a young age. He hasn't told me why yet, though." He peeked up at her before looking down in shame.

"Well, I don't care about that," Tenten said defiantly. She grinned boyishly at her only friend. "I don't care about all of that 'Branch member', 'Main-house member' gobbledy-gook. The only branches that matter to me is this one," she pounded a fist on the wood below her, "and this one," she tugged playfully on Neji's hair. He smiled.

"I'm glad you're my friend, Tenten," he said suddenly, and she smiled back.

"Me too, Neji," she replied softly.

Eighty percent accuracy, beat her happily thudding heart.

-

Eight

He wasn't at the academy today. He hadn't been there for the past few days, and he'd even failed to meet her in their usual spot. If she was worried on the first day, by now she was frantic. Tenten had asked anyone and everyone what had happened to make Neji absent for so long, and the few who knew only gave her a sad look before telling her that he'd be back soon enough.

But when?

She sighed and ran her fingers over a smooth patch by her side. She and Neji had scratched away at a bit of the tree, and when finally the rough bark had been cleared away, there was a lighter, smoother, softer spot. There, with two kunai, they'd went about carving each others' names in the wood, she Neji's, and he her's. A faint smile crossed her face when she thought about this.

Hearing the sound of footsteps, and feeling her new ability, chakra-sensing, pulling at her, she looked down. "Neji!" she cried happily, jumping from her branch to a crouch on the ground beside him. She stood up, hands fisted on her hips.

"Where have you-"

She stopped. His face, his normally happy, cheerful, contented face, was sad, frustrated, and paler than usual. His light lavender eyes were encircled by red, and he seemed so tired... and aged. It was as if he had become fifteen years older in a matter of four days.

"Oh... Neji... What happened? Nobody would tell me, and I... I missed you. You shouldn't worry someone like that."

Her voice was soft and she came a step closer to him. Placing a weapon-calloused hand on his shoulder, she made a move to look him in the eye. "Neji?"

"My father died." His voice cracked, and he looked away. Tenten's eyes widened and she was at a loss for words. Her hand was frozen on his shoulder as he continued. "I couldn't save him... and I was right there. It was horrible..." He balled his fists and hing his head. At once, all shock and slowness left Tenten's body, and she crushed him in a hug.

"Cry, Neji... You can cry..." she said softly. She scolded herself for being a hypocrite as he held on to her shirt and let his tears out, not for the first time, she knew. He sobbed nonsense to her, and she patted his head, feeling how badly she was needed, and how much she knew it hurt. And it did hurt... so badly. Her heart broke and longed for him, and the pain she had covered and guarded was becoming raw and fresh again in her heart.

So she silently cried with him, for the first time in years. Not painful, wracking sobs like Neji, but big, fat, silent tears rolled down her cheeks. She trembled, but remained strong; the epitome of solidity, of strength, of hope. He needed a rock, and she would be it, she knew. Tenten murmured comforting words of nothing and everything, she cooed, she whispered, she sang softly, until he let her go.

And she could see it in his eyes that he was ashamed of himself.

"I'm sorry, Tenten," he said after awhile. She shivered at the unfamiliar monotonous tone in his voice. "I... I won't bother you like this again." He turned; had he leaked out all of his emotions in that period of time in her arms?

"Neji," she said to his back. He was still, and she knew that that was her lead to continue. "I know. I know what it's like."

He was silent for a moment, and then nodded.

Eighty-five percent accuracy, she thought, clutching her aching heart as she watched Neji walk away.

-

Twelve

"Rock Lee, Hyuuga Neji, and Tenten."

The names kept ringing in her ears, and she winced. "Hyuuga Neji, and Tenten." Why did it affect her so? Things had never been the same between them, since that day four years ago. She had tried with him... Oh, she had tried. But no matter her efforts, he stayed in his 'zone', away from her, and away from the world. That didn't stop her, though. She did as many random acts of kindness as she could, such as making him a snack once and a while (ones she knew he liked, for their friendship long ago, so he could never deny them like he could his fangirl's treats), and when he needed something, she would readily be at his side. Hell, she even gave him a smile when she could see that he needed one... which was all the time.

She was really good at smiling when it came to Neji.

Tenten vaguely remembered that time, two years ago, when he had broken his leg in his garden at home, training with his uncle. She was at his beck and call that whole month-and-a-half, even, she knew, to the point of annoying.

He probably didn't even remember her anymore.

She wouldn't be surprised, she told herself, shrugging. It wasn't like she was his only friend at that time. And he had plenty of cousins his own age, probably even ones born into the Branch family. Yeah. He'd most likely forgotten about those two years. Those two glorious, wonderful years that she could never, ever forget. Those two years that they spent every day together, no matter what, rain, shine, snow, or sickness. Even days his family forbade him, he found a way to evade them and meet her. Always. Same place, same time, same Neji.

For two years of absolute bliss, she had a friend. A best friend. And, she missed that.

Tenten jumped down from her branch when she heard the loud voices of her new teammate and sensei some hundred yards away. They needn't know her special place. She quickly ducked into the dark forest surrounding, quickly finding her way to their training grounds. She would finally begin her life as a real, honest-to-goodness kunoichi.

She skidded to a stop when she reached the grounds, and grinned to herself. She knew the forest better than anyone. She had spent the most tim here, always looking for suitable places to do things, such as target practice (Neji used to watch her), or meditation (Neji taught her how), or just a place to sit and talk (with Neji, who else?). But, even though she had done those things with the Hyuuga prodigy, she still knew these woods better. She had climbed the ancient trees long before and long after they had become friends. She still explored, though there was very little to explore anymore. After all; she had been here searching for an outlet since her parents died, when she was four years old.

"You're late."

Tenten jumped, and swung around to face her foe. "Neji," she said politely. "Hn," was his reply. She turned again and smiled sadly. Tenten took out a kunai from her pouch and pierced her palm.

"What are you doing?" he asked incredulously. She smiled up at him.

"Making a vow," she replied and extracted another kunai from her bag, kissed the blade, and smeared it with her blood, ignoring the cheerful, then worried shouts from her new sensei and comrade, chanting a mantra repeatedly in her head as she stained the knife;

I will reach one hundred percent accuracy, and I will find my old Neji. But for now, I'm content with my teammate, and my ninety-five percent accuracy.

-

Sixteen

It was yet another mission the two had been placed in together. Tenten had noticed the reoccuring way she and Neji were often put together during these missions. In fact... all but two of them, she had accompanied the genius. During the first mission he went on without her, she bit all of her nails off in worry. The second, he came home half-dead (to her, at least), and that was when she vowed never to let him go off without her again.

And, she never did. Tsunade-sama always seemed to understand, as did the Hyuuga boy.

Tenten glanced over the fire at her comrade of four years. His lavender eyes reflcted the dancing flames he was eyeing, and he seemed to be contemplating things of utmost importance. She smiled.

Always the thinker. Always the genius.

She sighed, searching his face. He was much older now; they both were. But he... ever since... Well, he was just older. Much older. He'd been through so many hardships, and so much discrimination from his own family, no less, it was painful.

And she could relate so well to that.

His eyes were contemplative, questioning, yet at the same time, all-knowing. His features were more defined now that they were in their later teen years- a fact that had multiplied his many avid admirers. He was very handsome, but she'd know that for a long time... about, say, ten years. She smirked, knowing she had him figured, inside and out. Who wouldn't, being with him for so long?

"You have yet to tell me what you meant, eight years ago," he said suddenly. She looked at him. "Huh?" Oh, very smooth, Tenten, she chastised herself. Then, she reprimanded herself again because, obviously, Neji had caught her staring. He shook his head. "Never mind."

"You mean," she said softly, "when your father died?" He nodded, looking away once again. She hugged her knees to her chest protectively. "When I told you that I knew how you felt?" He brought his white-hot gaze back to her face.

"What happened to your family, Tenten?"

She smiled sadly.

"It was a long time ago. I was four. We lived in the forest beside Konoha." He shifted at this. "My father and I were playing in the garden... Hide and seek, maybe, because he had gone behind a tree and I was looking for him. I... I found him, Neji," she laughed bitterly. "He was stuck to the tree with his own weapons." She averted Neji's gaze. "I was traumatized, and I had run into our hut to find my mother... I found her, as well."

"I'm sorry."

She shrugged. "Don't be. It happened a long time ago, and I'm still alive, aren't I? Besides... It's kind of hard to remember, anyway."

"But, why didn't you..." His voice trailed off.

"Go on."

But the boy was silent, and Tenten knew that he would remain so. Once a choice was made by Neji, it didn't change. She sighed again, and shifted her gaze to the fire. She could see how easily Neji was mesmerized by the dancing flames, but soon, the heat and brightness burned her eyes, and she stood up.

"I'm taking a walk," she announced to her teammate and lept into the trees. Jumping from branch to branch, she put more and more distance between herself and her friend.

Friend...

Neji could be classified as a friend; who couldn't after one spent countless years, hours, minutes, seconds with another? Tenten stopped on a thick branch, and bent low to a crouch. She leaned against the trunk of the tree and closed her eyes. She was suddenly very tired... and slowly, her consciousness faded.

-

"Neji!" the little girl laughed, and ran to the boy. Though his back was turned to her, she knew exactly who it was. He turned his head, and smiled at her. "I missed you, Tenten."

She nodded, tripping once over a root. He was still so far away...

"I missed you, too... Neji?"

The boy began to walk away. Tenten reached a hand toward him. "Neji! Wait up! Hey!" She cried out as she flew to the ground, her foot caught between a root and the ground. Neji continued to walk away. "Neji! Please, come back! Neji!" she sobbed. He disappeared from her sight. "No, Neji..."

-

"Neji..."

"Tenten!"

Her eyes opened in a flurry and she found herself looking into the face of a concerned Hyuuga. She brought a forceful smile to her face, and laughed shakily. "What's wrong, Neji? I've never seen you look so worried before." She watched as his hand made its way to her face. He drug his thumb gently across her cheek, and showed her; it was wet. "Oh." Tenten waved it off. "I was just having a bad dream; nothing to be concerned about." She swung her legs around to hang over the side of the branch and hopped down to the forest floor.

"Let's get back to camp, Neji."

She turned and waited for the sound of his feet hitting the ground before beginning to walk in the general direction of their campsite. She glanced over her shoulder instinctively, and kept her gaze on him until he reached her side. Though she knew that the reoccuring nightmare wasn't real, she felt better being safe than sorry.

Tenten tried to inconspicuously wipe the moisture from her face with her sleeve, but felt childish in doing so. She glanced at her companion. Neji was far from childish... In fact, they were polar opposites.

But she still loved him. She still felt like they had each other figured out with one hundred percent accuracy.

-

Twenty

"I'm probably getting too old for this," she muttered, reaching for the next branch up. Scaling the rest of the tree, Tenten finally plopped down on the infamous branch. She slid her fingers over the age-old signatures out of habit, and made herself comfortable. The Jounin took her large pack from her back, and took out a kunai, the bottle of polish, and a rag, beginning to clean the weapon. She hummed an absentminded tune while rubbing away at the metal, until it sparkled like new, and even better, for its mistress had been the one fondling and coddling it so. Tenten then took out a smaller bag from her pack, and placed the weapon into it.

She repeated this process for hours, and the littler bag was full of sharp, pointed object of death. Tenten rifled through the bag one more time until she finally felt her fingers brush a hard surface. Clasping the knife in her hands, Tenten brought it into the sunlight... and gasped. One flat side was covered in blood, and the white wrappings around the handle were stained with crimson-turned-dark-brown as well. She remembered suddenly her oath. "Oh, Neji... Where are you?" she asked softly to no one in particular.

"Right here."

The kunoichi smirked.

"I knew you would be."

The man jumped up in front of her on the thick branch, his eyes questioning. She simply smiled and waved the knife around. "Remember this?" Neji frowned.

"How could I forget?"

She laughed.

"You're right. I made quite a scene, didn't I?"

He nodded, and she laughed. Slowly but surely, he joined her in laughter.

The branch holding them up shook with their mirth. Both shinobi sobered, and Tenten began to pack her things back into her bag. She stopped though when his hand brushed her leg. Her eyes locked onto the hand and she bit her cheeks to hold back a blush. But th e hand traveled past her thigh, though his arm rested there, and his bandaged fingers ran over their names engraved in the wood. "It's still here," he breathed near her ear. She giggled and lightly shoved him away, a bit breathless from their close proximity.

"Of course it is. Don't you think I'd know if something so important faded away?"

Tenten stuck out her tongue and pulled at a strand of his hair, grinning. Neji reached over and pinched her nose. She cried out in indignity, and batted his hand away, amused at his laughter.

Suddenly, it came to her, and Tenten's lips broke out in an enormous smile. She began to laugh again, and had to lean against the sturdy trunk of the tree behind her in fear of falling off. Happiness filled her to the brim, and tears pricked at her eyes.

"I found you!" she cried suddenly, leaping at him and enveloping him in her embrace. "I finally found you, Neji!" Then, she cried. He hesitantly patted her head, his brow furrowed in confusion.

"What are you talking about?" he questioned, and she pulled back, pecking his cheek. He blushed.

"I found you, Neji! It took me twelve years, but I finally did! You're not just the Hyuuga prodigy with a stuck up his butt; you're still my Neji." She smiled smugly. "I knew it, and vowed to find you again." The boy waved toward the bag of weapons. "Was that the oath you made in blood, and scared me half to death with?"

Tenten wrinkled her nose. "Hyuuga Neji? Scared? Now, I knew the old you was still burried somewhere, but not a 'fraidy cat Neji! Someone, shoot me, please!"

"Not if I have anything to say about it," Neji replied, fingering a lock of her hair. She laughed softly, a small smile replacing her larger one. Neji leaned in close, and she breathed, "Well, what do you have to say about it?" The prodigy smirked and pulled her close. "At this moment in time... nothing at all." And he lowered his lips onto hers.

With 110 percent accuracy

-.-.-

T.T I'm so proud of this one. It took two days, and already I think it's my favorite oneshot. So? What do I win? -gasps- MONEY? No? Drat.

Review if you wish... But I do so hope you wish!

-Bya-chan