Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
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At last the group of shinobi met again. Shikamaru had an arm around Temari; Sakura was read, and Sasuke held her hand possessively; and the instant Naruto saw Hinata, he leapt forward and hugged her. She, being Hinata, went completely red and fainted in his arms. Altogether, it was very romantic. Tenten smiled contentedly. After saying goodnight, they disbanded.
"Hello, Tenten! When did you get here?" Lee and Gai-sensei stood next to her, both flashing their teeth. Tenten smiled and turned away, lest she go blind from the intensity of this combined attack – er, smile.
"I've been here all night," she answered quietly. At her tone, both green-clad men sobered and went away after bidding their "precious flower of youth" a good night. Tenten made ready to leave, but something stayed her feet.
Tears. She felt the beginning of tears in her eyes. She would bother the neighbors if she cried at home, so she took refuge in the cave behind the waterfall. The weapons-mistress didn't notice someone following her there.
As she stepped through the glassy sheet of water, the roar of the falls blocked out any other sounds and distractions. Here, she was still the only one, but no longer alone. The water caressed her face and whispered to her. Yet it was still water. It did not – could not – love her or have any feelings for her. It only seemed to.
Curling up on the floor, she was about to explode when a shape moving outside caught her eye. Cautiously, she sat up with a kunai in hand. Stepping into the moonlight, she hissed. It was Neji.
"What do you want?" she snarled. "Nobody ever comes here at night." Except me.
Neji only looked at her with his eerie eyes. At the look in his white orbs, Tenten recoiled. This was not like Neji at all. He never showed his emotions, yet there it all was. Her lip curled.
"So you're in love," she sneered. "And this is where you last saw her. You'll wait out here until she comes back, profess your undying love for her, and live happily ever after." With a cackle, she turned to go, but looked back at him. "Fairy tales don't come true, Neji. Trust me."
His next words, cruel and unmerciful, nearly broke her heart. "What would you know of love?"
She whirled round and glared coldly at him. A kunai buried itself in the ground. Then she disappeared.
Tenten stood in a clearing, surrounded by trees. Flexing her fingers angrily, she did a few practice signs, then performed the justu that would release the spray of mist. This depended on a reservoir in the shinobi's body. Tenten's storage had been used up. Hissing furiously, she went to the pool and refilled.
When she was finally ready, she did the justu over and over again. Just after spraying the mist, she would grab it wither her chakra and replace herself with it; this was no different than Sakura's way of disappearing in a shower of cherry petals. The only thing special was the justu that she needed in order to produce mist where there was no water.
Once the water inside her was gone, she went to the pool and refilled once again. But her anger was still not completely vented; she produced her katana from its scroll and closed her eyes, letting the blade lead. As she did, she thought venomously about what Neji had said. She hissed in irritation as one of her rubber bands snapped, braiding her hair tightly and tying it with the remaining tie.
What would I know of love? Ha! As if you know anything. If you think that your Nadeshiko is going to show up, you're just dense. What would I know of love, you jerk? I was the one staring into your eyes! I was the one you were about to kiss! I'm the one who's fallen in love with you, you idiot!
Bringing the katana up in a vicious arc, Tenten flicked her wrist gracefully to behead an imaginary attacker. This was the stroke she had used on Neji. Lashing out at a tree with her foot, the kunoichi leapt to the center of the open area and launched into a series of lightning quick parries and thrusts. Finally she dropped the sword and it disappeared. Tenten cursed as she fell to the ground, fatigued; she had to fight to stay conscious.
Biting her lip to stifle a whimper, she managed to drag herself up and staggered behind the falls. Once in the relative safety of her cave, she fell asleep, completely unaware of the dark shadow that slipped into her hiding place.
Neji had followed Tenten, hoping that she might lead him to her cousin. However, she only ran off to an area surrounded by trees. Her hands formed seals- familiar seals. Neji's eyes widened considerably as he realized with shock that Tenten was trying to do what Nadeshiko had done – disappear using mist. When nothing happened, the irritated shinobi cursed and stomped off to the pool. The Hyuuga waited patiently, hidden in the shadows.
Finally, his teammate came back, frown slightly smaller. Spreading her legs about shoulder width apart for better balance, she did the seals again – this time successfully. Neji noticed with surprise that she did it exactly like Nadeshiko. Interesting. At least, she stopped and went back to the water. Neji waited silently, wondering at the similarities between the two girls.
He blinked as Tenten produced a lone, thin katana, practicing slow, steady unfaltering stokes. He knew that the brown-haired young woman could take down five shinobi twice her size with one such weapon alone. What he'd never noticed, though, was one certain move; where she brought the sword down onto an opponent's neck – but he'd seen it before. Heck; he'd lost to it. Nadeshiko had used it on him.
Looking up at her, he suddenly froze. Tenten had done her long hair up in a braid because one of her hair ties had snapped. From the back, she looked exactly like Nadeshiko…yes, if you made her face just a little whiter, they were completely look-alikes…His mind stopped. This could not be a coincidence. But if Tenten was actually Nadeshiko – he'd said awful things to her… because of "Nadeshiko." He now seriously doubted that this character had ever existed.
Then she collapsed. Neji almost rushed out to help her, but she moaned weakly, pushing herself up off the ground. When she was far enough ahead, he stepped quietly out from his hiding place and followed her. The cavern surprised him; it was beautifully furnished with stone shelves and chairs. Tenten had even put a table in the back. After taking a quick look around, his suspicions were confirmed. As he pocketed the object he'd found, Tenten sneezed. Sighing, he walked to where she lay on the ground.
"Tenten, wake up. You'll catch a cold." Her eyes flew open and she tried to stand. She should never have worked so hard…She froze as Neji kneeled next to her, helping her up into a chair of stone. Then he leaned against the wall, watching her.
"Impressive," he commented, gesturing around. Tenten narrowed her eyes.
"What are you doing in here, Neji?" she spat, struggling to stand; unfortunately, she was too tired, and gave up quickly. "Shouldn't you be out there waiting for your girlfriend?"
She had managed to stand, but suddenly her strength gave out and she toppled forward. In a flash, Neji caught her and lowered her back into the chair. He reached into his pocket and pulled out something. She drew in a sharp breath as she saw her white face powder between his long fingers. He smirked, his pearly white eyes flickering to the object in his hand.
"What might you need this for? I didn't know you used makeup, Tenten," he commented dryly. When she growled, he leaned over and tossed it to her. She swiped at it but missed, doubling over on the floor, coughing. Neji frowned.
"Your cold is worse than I thought," he muttered. He stepped forward, but the weaponsmistress turned away from him, crawling closer to the wall. Normally, Neji would not have done what he did next, but seeing as Tenten was on the ground coughing, she would not be able to do anything. So he sighed and picked her up, ignoring her enraged glare. When she had finally stopped struggling, he cradled her closer to his chest and sat down on a chair.
"Tell me the truth, Tenten," he muttered gently. "Why did you pretend to have a cousin?"
She closed her eyes, trying to take in more of his warmth. "It was supposed to be a joke. Hinata-chan and I had worked out that if nobody could recognize me with my hair down, I would pretend to be "Nadeshiko." I just wanted to see how you guys would react. It was…so hard to stay emotionless, but I did my best," she said quietly, giving a short, bitter laugh. "I guess I did it too well." Then her head slumped onto her chest, too tired to say almost any more. But after a moment, she spoke again. "I've always wanted family…but when you all thought I did, I became jealous."
Neji gave her still form a hug, startling her into raising her head. "Tenten…you did a good job being "Nadeshiko," but your personality still shone through. The only difference between you and your imaginary "cousin" was that "she" was an ice cube sometimes, and you aren't. If I'd stopped to think about it, I would've realized that what I saw in "Nadeshiko" – what I was attracted to – was you."
Tenten shivered involuntarily. "Neji, I'm tired. Don't speak in riddles," she said quietly.
"Tenten…I think I love you." (A/N: Baka! You think?! What about "I know?!" Man, Neji; you are bold. Oh, wait. I'm the one who made you say that. smacks herself…)
"What!" Tenten stared in shock at the man holding her. His lavender-tinted eyes looked back at her. He shrugged, standing (still holding her, of course).
"Let's go. You need to get into a warm bed, or else you'll get sicker than you already are," the Hyuuga replied briskly. Though his teammate protested weakly, he carried her back to her apartment. As he tucked her in snugly, he remembered something.
"Tenten… You said that when we met "Nadeshiko," you were jealous. Does that mean that you like me?" he asked teasingly. Tenten closed her eyes, yawning.
"No…I don't like you," she muttered sleepily. "You nearly broke my heart over some imaginary character." Neji would have protested that she'd been the one who'd thought the whole thing up, had he not heard her next words. "I think that I love you, though…"
Bending carefully over her still form, her planted a gently kiss on her forehead. He thought that she had fallen asleep, but as he left her room, she murmured something that made him smile.
"Maybe…fairytales do come true…"
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So there you have it. I know the ending's kinda cheesy, but… please don't flame me about it! And say thank you to my very supportive friend for typing this up! Until next time!!!!!!!!