NejiXTenten. The instructions were clear. Eliminate any witness. It was starless that night.
Naruto is by Masashi Kishimoto.
Chapter One: Second Place
He arrived at the front door of the Hokage's mansion and found no one. It's no surprise since he always arrive a little early than the scheduled appointment- a discipline and a habit. It had only been a few minutes when he saw Tenten waving cheerfully at him. He nodded in response, a subtle smile appearing on his face. The story he heard from Lee before he left for a mission with Gai had him smiling the whole day. That medic nin was dumped too, apparently. There's been an influx of suitors lately, much to his dismay. The frequent missions kept him out of the village most of the time and that, he thought, encouraged the opportunists.
"I heard about it." He said as soon as she was a step away, masking the smile on his face.
She replied with a heavy sigh. She had spent the entire day lecturing Sakura and Ino to stop their so-called 'test of love'. The two were so involved trying to get them together and now that they are, their next project is to break them apart. It doesn't make sense.
"I like him but…" She paused briefly. "…I don't love him."
"So I gathered."
Who's in her dislike list anyway? She has, indeed, grown as a fine kunoichi- skillful, beautiful, every inch attractive. It's not her fault. He's not the only one who's got a good pair of eyes. The smile reappeared on his face, his thoughts moving forward.
"You're suddenly in a good mood." She said as she gave his long dark hair a playful tug.
He laughed a little at her teasing. Nothing can ruin his triumphant good mood- triumph over guy number 9 also known as Sakura's bet. She smiled at him and held him by his arm as she pulled him along. He likes it when she's near him. He likes it when she's being like that.
"Tsunade-sama is going to get angry if we're late!"
"I guess." He said, walking beside her.
They made their way to the stairs that leads to the Hokage's office. It was a mission for the two of them, he heard. They were both beyond excited. They haven't been together in a mission for the longest time. And whether it's due to the manipulation of some concerned or simply nosy individuals or not, he's thankful. They will be out on their own and he wouldn't have to worry about gossiping or worse, spying. Although his focus is impeccable during missions, it's still a good chance to spend some time together. For years, they have bonded in ways strange to the majority. And they don't have a problem with that.
"It can't be helped." The Hokage said.
It was her reply to the obviously disappointed look in both their faces. Read the entire request letter next time, she made a mental note of Shizune's words. She should have listened to her assistant the first time she heard that warning. She took the scroll on her desk, sealed with a golden emblem. She then handed it to Neji. He accepted it and went back to stand beside the still pissed off bun haired kunoichi.
"Believe me, I intended to assign the two of you but Takeda-sama said he wanted one person for this mission. I can't choose Tenten because it's an S rank."
"What is this mission about? An S rank mission is extremely dangerous and yet they asked for just one person?" Tenten debated.
The Hokage sighed as she swiveled her chair to face the huge glass window behind her. The truth is, she's just as confounded. It's exactly as the Chuunin said. It's a weird mission. S ranks are not assigned as an individual mission unless the village is suffering from damages, losses or war. Konoha is able to send an entire team to ensure the success of the daimyo's request but his letter insisted that they send one, highly qualified shinobi. The letter included no other detail.
"Actually, even I don't know what the mission is about." She admitted.
"What?" Tenten blurted.
"I all ready told you all that I know."
"We don't accept missions like that, right?"
"Unfortunately, I can't turn down this one."
"Tenten…" Neji interrupted.
She's worried about the mission, or it's better to say that she's worried about him going to such an absurd mission. It would have been acceptable if they can go together. Two heads are better than one- especially because the task lacks almost all the necessary information. The issue had gone beyond the simple we want to be together rant.
"By this emblem, this mission is requested by the daimyo of the Land of Fire." He said.
"But his request is so unreasonable!"
"Unreasonable or not, Tsunade-sama has to maintain the good relationship between Konoha and the Land of Fire. It's not that she willingly succumbed to such a demanding mission. She just had to accept it." He explained.
The Hokage nodded, relieved that at least she's got him on her side. The Hyuuga talent has always been a critical thinker and at times like that, she knew she can depend on him to carry out missions with the least complaints or questions. There's no denying that she's worried about one of her best shinobi though. If it's any other party who requested that kind of mission, it should have been a quick and easy no. But that daimyo is an indispensable client.
Tenten grew quiet. He's that type of guy- a laudable example of a great shinobi. If only he would understand the torture she goes through whenever he leaves with no guarantee of coming back. If it's any other girl then she can get mad, she can yell, she can even cry. She's a competitive person. But how do you compete against something so abstract? She may be the closest person to him but even at that, she's always a second placer after his duties.
She stared at the plate before her. The ambiance of their favourite restaurant didn't help her appetite. Neji just finished his food and with his sigh, she noticed that he's looking at her. She remained quiet after that argument- mum as he accepted the mission, finalized the arrangements, as they headed out of the Hokage's office, replying with a nod when he asked her if she wanted to get something to eat. For some reason, she doesn't feel good about that mission- that and the fact that he's leaving her again, too soon.
"You're not touching your food."
"I'm not hungry."
"I asked you and you agreed."
"I just wanted to spend more time with you." She said bluntly.
There was silence between them. He had planned on their supposedly mission together as soon as he heard about it. He knows she's looking forward to it as well and he can't blame her. It's too bad that it had to end that way but that's the life of a ninja. Missions are missions, and they're always a ninja's top priority. Every shinobi and kunoichi knows that.
"Neji…" She said softly.
"Don't accept the mission."
"I all ready did."
"You can say no this time."
"There are a lot of other Jounins out there. Surely, Tsunade-sama can find a replacement."
He didn't say anything. He has never backed out from a mission before. He doesn't have the intention to. In a way, he's pleased with the trust and confidence that the Hokage constantly puts on him. It's quite puzzling that he is yet to be promoted within the ANBU ranks with all that recognition under his name. And that's what he's been aiming for. Him and her- that can wait.
"You don't want to." She said, as if reading his mind.
He watched her as she stood up, following her when she walked out of the establishment. Her steps were slow and unsure. She had long vowed to support him in any way that she can. From training during their Genin days, to following his orders when they were promoted- him to a Jounin and her to a Chuunin, up to that point that he's somewhere she probably couldn't reach. He can't be bound in a cage. His possibilities are endless. It pains her to know that all she can do is let him go.
"Neji…" She said as she stopped walking.
He was a few steps behind her. He was told to see the daimyo immediately and knowing him, he'll be leaving that night. He won't change his mind- with that special clause the Hokage gave him, no one can, as much as she hates to admit it. At that rate, he'll be leaving while they're in a fight. No matter how small it is, distraction is the last thing he needed.
"Make it up to me when you get back, okay?"
He was almost sure that she was at one of her worse moods. He was pleasantly surprised that she was suddenly over it but she was even more surprised when his arms wrapped around her waist from behind, resting his chin over her shoulder. It always baffles her, how amazing it is that his simplest acts could send her over the sky. Second place doesn't seem so bad when he's like that. And everything else- the tantrum, the sulking, the temper, and even the hurt- disappears.
"Take care." She whispered as she pulled a bunch of his long dark hair.
"I will." He said, holding her tighter.
Rated T for Neji's mission later, I guess.
Genre of Romance and a little bit of the other stuff.
I appreciate your time. Thanks!