I know… I am the worst updater in the world. I am slightly horrified myself to see that it's taken me well over a year to write the last chapter… Real life has been keeping me very extremely occupied and this year has been eventful to say the least... Since it's flooding where I am at the moment and I'm stuck at home, I finally got around to finishing this instead of going out to enjoy myself. Also thought I should upload this before the electricity gets cut so the last parts may have mistakes as I haven't gone over it as much. This has been sitting in my head and half written for so long so I really hope I have done this justice.
Disclaimer: I do not own any rights in Naruto but I do own various pieces of Naruto merchandise like a Neji pencil that I have absolutely no use for and will probably never ever use. I just got it because it had Neji on it.
Endings and New Beginnings
Tenten didn't consider herself a particularly sentimental girl. Well obviously she had feelings like every other girl but she wasn't the type to keep pressed flowers in a secret diary where she wrote the name of her crush over and over again. However, she was a sucker for displays of affection. Well the tasteful ones anyway, not the disgusting 'please get a room' ones. She thought it was really sweet when she saw old couples still holding hands, when a guy kissed a girl really tenderly on the forehead or when a guy would do something he normally would never do, just to see the girl he was in love with smile. Like buying her flowers, or dressing nicely for once, or buying her that item she had been eyeing in the shops for weeks or even just singing to her.
She wondered why she was getting so jealous just from looking at all the couples at the shopping centre. It never used to happen to her until he came along. She scowled and chewed on the pink plastic straw poking out of her coke can. Maybe she was just getting to the age where her biological clock had started ticking or something like that. Ok, it was far too soon for her biological clock to start ticking and she was most definitely not becoming clucky but it would be so nice, for once, to have someone who didn't play crazy mind games.
Tenten watched as Naruto kept making Hinata blush without realising it just by shifting his chair slightly closer so he could hear her soft voice over the background noise in the food court since she was the only person willing to listen to his story. Ino and Sakura were unashamedly checking out guys from Suna Grammar and giggling away. She would have happily joined them if only she wasn't in such a foul mood today. It was over the most ridiculous thing as well and it was all his fault for turning her into one of those psycho jealous girls even though they weren't even dating in the first place. She knew that it wasn't like Sakura was hitting onto Neji in the first place but it still irked her to see him give any other girl his full and undivided attention. Sakura had simply needed help with a maths problem and the two guys she would normally ask for help, namely Sasuke or Shikamaru in that order of preference, were still lining up for lunch. So she had asked the next best person who turned out to be Neji who had been, admittedly, minding his own business listening to his ipod like the rude antisocial bastard he was. Still, seeing Sakura leaning so close to him, squinting at his handwriting trying to decipher what it was, flamed waves of jealousy in her that Tenten had no idea existed.
"Earth to Tenten," said Ino waving her hand in front of her face.
Tenten startled then plastered an apologetic smile on her face, but it felt more like a grimace. "Sorry Ino, what did you say?"
"I was asking whether you knew where Shikamaru had run off to after class? He said he was going to hang out at the food court with us but he never showed. All the other guys have no idea." Ino twirled the end of her ponytail as she spoke.
The older girl shrugged, "I have no idea."
"He's hiding something," the blonde girl stated firmly.
"Really?" said Sakura smirking, "Asuma's probably giving him extra homework for falling asleep in class again."
"It's my woman's intuition," Ino told her loftily. "I know Shikamaru well and I know that he's up to something but I just can't figure out what."
"Well he's here now so you can ask him," her pink haired friend replied, jerking her thumb in the lazy boy's direction as he strolled over to their table.
"Where have you been?" demanded Ino.
"School," he drawled mockingly.
"Well duh, what I meant was how come it took you so long to get here?"
Shikamaru's eyes flickered to Tenten's with a glint of something she couldn't identify and the side of his mouth quirked up as he answered with the straightest face, "I had to answer the call of nature and do a number two. It was great in case you were wondering Ino, I feel so much better now."
Sakura and Ino shrieked at him for giving way too much information and Tenten tried to stifle a snigger. If it was something he came up with on the spot, it was an ingenious way of stopping Ino in her tracks before she could seriously start interrogating him. But now she was starting to suspect that something was going on that she should know about. Maybe it was the glance that Shikamaru had given her, it had seemed too speculative, like he knew something was about to happen to her but he wasn't telling. Tenten stirred her drink with her straw pensively and wondered if she was imagining things now.
Hinata opened the front door for Neji with a quizzical expression on her face. "Why are you home so late? You don't normally stay out this late, where have you been?"
"Training," Neji mumbled and brushed past her, dropping his school bag on the floor unceremoniously and heading straight to the refrigerator for something to drink. Well you could call it training his voice right? He certainly wasn't going to tell her what he had really been doing. In fact, he wouldn't have told anyone if he could have helped it but he needed help with the school sound system so he had had to rope in Shikamaru. Shikamaru had then insisted on watching him practise so that he knew exactly what he was getting into. Neji hadn't been happy about it, he didn't like people seeing him play when he hadn't mastered most of the piece he had to perform. He was a perfectionist and he knew he had a long way to go before being able to do a good job of singing the song. He didn't even know whether he could actually sing. Shikamaru had given no hint of what he thought of his singing either.
She followed him into the kitchen. "But everyone else was at the shopping centre with us," Hinata pointed out suspiciously.
"Extra training," he snapped. Why on earth was Hinata suddenly asking him all these questions and not leaving him alone like she normally did? He downed the remainder of the milk in the fridge straight from the carton.
"Neji!" Hinata reprimanded him. "Don't do that! That's disgusting!" She snatched the empty carton away from him. He ignored her, and went upstairs to his room. Hinata continued shadowing him. "Neji, your behaviour is starting to really worry me," she exclaimed. "You've been staying back at school almost everyday and you spend all lunch somewhere by yourself as soon as you've finished eating. You don't talk to anyone anymore!"
He rolled his eyes, but his back was to her so she didn't see it as he was rummaging through his drawers for a clean set of clothes. Neji made his way to the bathroom, but Hinata kept following him. "Neji, talk to me, I just want to help you," his cousin continued almost plaintively.
He turned around to face her finally, "Hinata, I would really like to have a shower so if you wouldn't mind not following me into the bathroom that would be much appreciated." Then he closed the door as politely as he could in her face.
Tenten wasn't sure how much worse school could get but apparently her PE class was going to cover sex education today. Of all the teachers who could have taken their class, it had to be Gai sensei. At first he had given an incredibly long spiel about how when students their age were in the midst of the 'Springtime of their Youth' they began to become curious about their bodies and members of the opposite sex as their bodies underwent a very youthful change. Then it slowly went downhill from there.
"Now when a man loves a woman very much," then Gai cleared his throat awkwardly "or when a man loves another man very much or a woman loves another woman very much…" The entire class burst out laughing. He waved at them to quiet down before continuing, "They participate in a very special act of making love." Gai paused in his speech and looked around the room solemnly, "Now some of you may engage in casual sex so it is very important for you to understand that you should treat beautiful flowers like our Tenten with respect and take precautions." The class began sniggering once more and Tenten thought she was going to die from embarrassment. It really did not help that she was the only girl in this class of boys and why, oh why, did Gai sensei have to single her out?
"Shut up," snapped Neji to the guys and they quietened down.
Then Gai decided it would be helpful if he gave them a quick revision of how sex and different types of contraception worked. Unfortunately Gai liked to emphasise the important points with a lot of hand movements. Approximately half the class was sniggering away immaturely, finding it incredibly hilarious every time Gai mentioned the word 'penis', 'vagina' or 'sex'. The other half was absolutely mortified like herself and Lee. Neji, on the other hand, just looked extremely bored and stony-faced when she sneaked a glance at him.
Suddenly Gai started handing out condoms. Tenten wanted to sink into the ground and die. She turned a bright red and handed the box on to the next person, Lee, without taking any.
One of their classmates, Takeo, who was always joking around shoved a handful of condoms into Neji's hands with a wide grin. "Here mate, you need to let off some steam." Tenten tried her hardest to stifle her giggle and a couple of other boys who had witnessed it sniggered. Neji flushed furiously and roughly tried to give them back to the other boy but Gai was already collecting the box with all the remaining plastic packets in it so there was nothing else he could do without making a scene except shove them into his pockets to dispose of another time.
"Ok class, I'm going to finish off the last ten minutes of class now by showing you a really great slideshow!" Gai announced cheerfully. He struggled briefly with the projector, and then he revealed the first of many horrifying pictures. "This, my wonderfully youthful class, is a picture of Chlamydia!"
There was a thud as Lee fainted next to her.
Neji wasn't very hungry because the traumatising images from that sex education slideshow they had been forced to watch seemed to have been burnt onto his eyeballs. He pushed his dinner around his plate miserably. It was a pity since Hinata's cooking was always pretty good. His uncle gave him a concerned look as Neji, being the growing teenage boy he was, usually had a pretty big appetite. "Are you not feeling well?"
"I'm fine, just not feeling hungry today," he mumbled and forced himself to take another bite.
Hinata gave him a sympathetic look, she had heard about how his grade had been given the 'talk' that day. Her grade would receive the 'talk' next year. Neji had a sneaking suspicion that she would faint during the slideshow; she was never very good with things like that. Hinata excused herself from the table as she wanted to do a load of washing since they were all running out of school uniforms to wear. His uncle had been banned from using the washing machine years ago ever since he failed to separate the colours and turned all their white school shirts and socks pink.
Hanabi went to grab some fruits from the kitchen and handed them to her father. Hiashi sliced them up deftly to make a fruit salad while Neji struggled to finish his dinner. There was a sudden shriek from the laundry room where Hinata was. They all rushed over to her to see what was wrong. Neji wondered if it was a spider that had scared her again. When they got there, she was holding his pants and a handful of plastic packets she had taken out of his pocket. Hinata usually checked all their pockets before putting clothes in the machine because Hiashi and Hanabi had a habit of leaving all kinds of things in their pockets. She turned to him with a horrified expression and thrust the handful of plastic packets into his face. Neji paled when he finally realised what it was she was holding. "Why do you have so many condoms in your pocket?" she shrieked at him.
"I was going to throw them out, I wasn't going to use them!"
Hiashi ushered Hanabi out of the room but Neji could still hear her ask her father innocently what were condoms. He was so screwed, and it wasn't even like he had had the opportunity to impregnate anyone. Would it be wrong to kill Hinata at this point of time? His uncle returned with his lips in a tight thin line. Neji knew it was not a good sign.
"Neji, I have become very concerned about you lately because of your behaviour. First you get into fights, you've suddenly become even more anti-social and now you are using condoms." His uncle's voice was dripping with disappointment and why did it seem like all of a sudden his family was holding an intervention?
Neji opened his mouth to protest but his uncle raised his hand to stop him.
"Look, I want you to know that if you need to talk to me about anything at all, you can come to me and I will try my best to help you," his uncle continued gravely.
"I'm not using those condoms," Neji growled through clenched teeth.
"Then why do you have so many in your pocket?"
"Because some idiot at school thought it would be hilarious to make me take a whole bunch during sex education, I was going to throw them in the bin but I forgot they were in my pocket until now." Neji watched his uncle carefully, but he couldn't tell if his uncle believed him or not.
Hiashi nodded and told him simply to finish his dinner. Neji went to his room instead and groaned into his pillow. He knew that this episode would not be forgotten by his uncle and he wondered how much more humiliation and trouble he was going to suffer at school when he finally set his plan in action.
Strange, Neji didn't turn up for Maths when he had been in all their other classes this morning. Tenten only noticed this because he sat two rows in front of her and it wasn't hard to miss the empty seat. It was the last five minutes of school and Asuma-sensei was giving them homework to do for the week, the whiteboard marker squeaking occasionally as he set out the pages for them to complete. She dutifully copied them down into her school diary and eyed the clock hanging on the wall. The bell finally rang and their class was dismissed from school.
She twirled the numbers on her combination lock rapidly and pulled out her books. "Hey Tenten," said Lee breathlessly, having run up to her from somewhere, "What are you up to this afternoon?"
"Home, homework, the usual," she said slowly wondering why Lee was asking her such an obvious thing. Tenten swung her bags over both shoulders and started walking towards the bus stop. Lee seemed slightly agitated. He opened his mouth to say something when suddenly music started playing over the school PA system. The piano chords were very familiar and Tenten cocked her head to one side to listen. The Scientist by Coldplay. Odd, since when did the school start playing music over the PA system, especially good music like this?
Then the singing started. It was definitely not the Coldplay lead singer's voice, it was deeper and huskier and sounded strangely familiar.
"That's weird," Tenten gestured vaguely at the PA system, "They don't usually play Coldplay and I don't think I've heard this version before." She shifted the bags on her shoulders and began walking towards the bus stop.
Lee hurried after her, "So do you like this version?"
Tenten shrugged, "It's not bad, the singer's voice sounds really familiar but I can't quite remember where I've heard him before." Lee suddenly stopped walking and she turned around and gave him a questioning look. He seemed to have something he really needed to get off his chest. "What is it Lee?" she sighed, trying to stay patient.
"I was just wondering if maybe you're being a little harsh to Neji? He's been so down lately… I'm getting worried about him…"
"Oh so has Neji been spreading rumours about me?" she snapped. Great Lee was taking his side.
"No, I had to force it out of him. He wouldn't give me the details but he said it was his fault and he seems genuinely sorry Tenten, maybe you could start trying to forgive him?
Tenten opened her mouth to retort but she was interrupted by the sudden arrival of Naruto running up to them waving his arms frantically.
Naruto bent over to try to catch his breath, "Guys, you HAVE to come quick, Neji's on the rooftop, I think he's gonna jump!"
"What? Are you serious? I have to stop my rival! He's far too young!" gasped Lee as he ran towards the main school courtyard, with Naruto and Tenten close behind him.
She got a sinking feeling in her stomach as she sprinted after Lee. Had she been too harsh to Neji and caused him to become depressed? He hadn't seemed depressed but if he was, she didn't want to be the reason why he was about to throw himself off the top of a building. Tenten was starting to feel guilty for being so cold towards Neji to punish him for the way he had treated her previously.
There was already a crowd gathering in the courtyard of students and teachers when they arrived. The three of them skidded to a halt then Lee and Naruto began pushing their way to the front of the crowd, yanking Tenten along with them.
Her jaw dropped open when she saw Neji standing close to the edge of the roof of the main building… and was he playing a keyboard? And was that him singing into a microphone?
"Nobody said it was easy…"
Tenten stared up with wide brown eyes, he was singing her favourite song, The Scientist by Coldplay. His eyes locked with hers as he continued to sing. How did he even know it was her favourite song? Then the penny finally dropped, he was serenading her. He was trying to apologise through the song and ask for her forgiveness in possibly the most embarrassing way for him possible instead of pestering her until she finally gave in. Something inside her fluttered wildly and she suspected it might have been her heart.
"No one ever said it would be so hard…"
Someone pushed Naruto out of the way and was now standing next to her. Tenten turned around to see Principal Tsunade with a crackling loudspeaker that she was now holding up to use.
"Hyuuga Neji, you'd better come down this instant!" she boomed. The nearby students covered their ears. She spun around to the two nearest teachers who just so happened to be Yamato and Kakashi and hissed at them to get up onto the rooftops and bring him down. They ran, well Yamato obediently sprinted while Kakashi lingered to survey the scene for a bit longer, his eyes crinkled with amusement.
Neji glanced at the principal, then ignored her instructions. He took the microphone off the stand and stepped up onto the ledge. "I'm going back to the start…"
The final note hung in the air suspensefully. Then the crowd of students below broke out into applause.
"NEJI STEP AWAY FROM THE LEDGE!" screeched their principal.
He bowed deeply with a flourish, and the crowd gasped thinking that he had momentarily lost his balance. Neji then stepped back down from the ledge. Then out of nowhere Yamato and Kakashi, who had sneaked up behind him in the meantime, tackled him to the ground.
"TAKE HIM TO MY OFFICE IMMEDIATELY I WILL DEAL WITH HIM THERE!" bellowed Principal Tsunade over the loudspeaker to the teachers, nearly bursting the eardrums of everyone present. Then she turned around to the excited crowd of students. They didn't see stunts pulled like this very often by other students, let alone such a stunt by one of the school's highest achievers. "Scram! All of you! Go home, there's nothing to see here anymore!" she yelled over the loudspeaker.
When no one moved, she spoke very slowly and clearly into loudspeaker, "Any student who is still here by the time I count to 10 will be getting detention for the rest of the term. One, two, three…"
The crowd scattered. Except for a slightly stunned brunette girl who wandered away slowly to the nearest bench she could find to sit down and process for a moment.
"Have you been feeling depressed lately Neji?" asked Tsunade very slowly and carefully, her eyes concerned and watching him intensely like a hawk.
"Yes, I feel fine. I apologise for my behaviour and it won't happen again," he replied evenly.
"Have you been having problems at home? School?" The interrogation and probing continued. It was going to be a while before he could get out of that office and go home to crawl under his bed to die. If Tenten had still not forgiven him after this he was going to have to change schools for sure, if they'd accept him after this stunt…
"Neji, if there have been any issues that have been going on, it is very important for you to be able to come to me, any of the teachers or the school councillor because the wellbeing of every single student that attends this school is of the utmost importance to me." The blonde woman continued to watch him carefully as he sat there thinking about how to respond.
"I once was young too, believe it or not, and I know the adolescent years can be a very difficult time. I know that you don't have many strong female role models that you can comfortably go to at home, but that is exactly what I, and your other teachers, are here for. I'm here to just listen if that is what you want."
Neji briefly considered admitting to her that his behaviour was all due to trying to impress a girl that he was infatuated with, then he remembered how bad her temper was. He smiled politely at her and shook his head, "I haven't been having any problems."
Tsunade continued boring holes into the back of his head with a look that told him that she knew there was a lot more going on than he let on and she was patient enough to wait for him to spit it out. She started tapping her blood red fingernails against the table surface. That woman was frighteningly good at playing mind games with people.
He looked down at his feet, and shifted uncomfortably. "I was trying to impress a girl," muttered Neji.
"I see," she said flatly. "And there wasn't any safer way you could have impressed her without risking death and nearly falling off the roof of the school building?"
He hadn't nearly fallen off the roof of the school building, he thought irritably.
"Well Romeo, consider yourself lucky that I'm feeling kind today. You will be having detention for the rest of the year and you will have to see the school counsellor for an assessment and you have to join the school choir."
Neji's jaw nearly dropped open, he had to join the school choir? Of all the punishments he had been expecting, joining a school choir was definitely bottom of the list but was possibly the worst one regardless. Kurenai sensei, the teacher who ran the choir, was a nice teacher and he had nothing against her but she made her choir do bad dance actions and wear stupid costumes. Then she made her choir perform in front of the entire school during assembly.
"Why so glum Neji? I'd hardly call that a punishment for you since you seem to enjoy singing in front of the entire school already," Tsunade said sweetly. Naruto was right all along, she WAS an evil old hag.
Her eyes then narrowed at him, "Now get out of my office, you've caused me enough grief today."
Neji scrambled to get out of there before she could think of any more torturous punishments to give him.
Tsunade chuckled to herself as she pulled out the small bottle of sake she kept in her bottom right desk drawer that she kept locked at all times. She was really just doing that boy favour, he had a fine voice and Kurenai would be so happy to have more new male talent. She had been quite lenient on the boy but when he had said that he had just been trying to impress a girl that he liked she had nearly melted on the spot. If a boy had done that for her when she was at that age… The tired woman swivelled her chair around so she could look out the window and she smiled.
Neji hurried toward the bus stop, looking steadfastly at his shoes. He didn't want to have to talk to other students if they were still around. Luckily most had gone home already. It was a Friday afternoon after all. He heard footsteps following him.
"Hey Neji," the voice was all too familiar. He stopped in his tracks and turned around slowly to look at the girl who had been the reason for all the craziness these past months.
"Hey," he replied hoarsely.
Her dark brown eyes studied him carefully, "Did you do all that for me by any chance?"
He nodded mutely. She walked slowly over to him, tiptoed and kissed him gently on his cheek. "Thank you for that, it was really sweet." Neji's heart skipped a beat then it thudded like crazy against his chest.
Tenten took a step back. "So I thought maybe we could start over," she stuck her hand out to him to shake. It felt strangely formal after everything that they had been through.
He took it, eyeing her curiously, wondering where she was going with this.
"Hi, my name is Tenten and I like reading, music and dancing and I'm currently not dating anybody," she grinned at him as she shook his hand firmly.
"My name is Neji and I like music, computer games and playing sports. I'm also currently not dating anybody," he replied with his own crooked smile.
"Well I think that needs to be fixed, doesn't it?" said Tenten with a laugh.
"So how do you propose that I fix it?" Neji asked her teasingly.
"For starters, you should take me out on a date," she replied light heartedly.
"I think I can do that," laughed Neji. He startled as she slipped her hand into his, then relaxed. Their fingers entwined like it was second nature to them already and they walked out of the school gates together.
A/N: So this is the end, finally. I hope you've enjoyed this fanfic as much as I've enjoyed writing it!
First of all I'd like to thank my old regular reviewers who have reviewed every or almost every chapter: Musei Kage, Rainekko, Lydia-hime, anthropomorphichybrid, oxsilvermoonxo, redeft, missy4eva, SmallButPowerful, Kunoichi-of-the-Leaf, SnowCharms, Blue-Heart08, kimiko77, turtlechick, siny, xmarachanx, totalnarutofangirl85, ObsessionsGoTooFar, Pyromanic-Girl, ChristinaAngel, half-note, ninjafrogofHNM, breenarose, BitterLife, Shenhui (I think I got mostly everyone but if I have left anyone out I am so incredibly sorry) and everyone else who have been kind enough to leave me a review every now and again and put this story on alert or their favourites… the new reviewers as well (too many to name sorry) and of course EshtarWind for drawing the art that inspired this AND especially to Evy a.k.a. . who pimped my story out, reviewed regularly, bounced ideas around with me on occasion and who drew me fanart as well!
Thank you for reading!