I Want a Family
She hugged her knees close to her chest trying to find some inner peace. Soft white moonlight filtered into the dark room from a large window to her left. The light bathed the floor she was sitting on and her body. She had her own room now so she could turn on the light, but she preferred to sit in the dark.
It was cold tonight.
The house had poor heating.
Her hair – free from her usual buns – brushed her face softly.
She closed her eyes.
It was noisy.
Not that it bothered her. She'd grown up in the building; she was used to the constant noise. The complete lack of silence. It was because of that that it scared her to be in silence.
It's why she was afraid of Neji for a while. He was just so quiet.
And she, she didn't understand silence.
It was never quiet in the home.
Tenten had learned to think in a sea of rushing noise – to concentrate against all distractions.
They joys of orphanages, she thought bitterly.
Tenten didn't have a family. She used to have one. Or so she thought.
She couldn't ever remember having one.
She couldn't remember a mother's warm arms around her shoulders.
A father's kind jokes.
A tender family moment.
A quiet birthday party…
Tenten sighed and opened her eyes slowly. Her coffee eyes traced the outlines of the shadow silhouettes on the floor.
Tenten didn't particularly feel morose about not having parents; she couldn't remember anything that really made her miss having them, but sometimes she did get envious.
The weapon's mistress prided herself on being strong, independent, and nothing like the weak girls she usually had the displeasure of meeting.
Like Ino and Sakura.
Okay, so maybe she was a bit too feminist, but girls like Sakura and Ino aggravated her to no end. They only did shinobi duties halfway (or at least, they used to. They were better now) and their first (if not only) priority always revolved around some guy.
She strongly disliked them, but found herself supremely jealous of those girls sometimes. They were…loved. Despite how irritating they could be, they wormed into everybody's life and made everyone – if not love – then at least accept them.
Everyone knew those girls' favorite everythings.
Everyone knew their dislikes.
Everyone knew their past.
And nobody forgot them – on any holiday.
They were loved, they were special, they were…they were something.
Tenten, on the other hand…
People forgot her easily.
Remembered her only for her skill with weapons and even then, she was just that weapon girl. She didn't worm into anyone's life easily, and on one cared for her story.
It was her birthday today.
She was now seventeen.
Seventeen years, and still no one cared.
She'd never, NEVER, had anyone celebrate her birthday with her.
She never even had anyone ask when her birthday was, let alone wish her a happy birthday.
The first years of her life, she didn't care that nobody seemed to care. She lived in an orphanage were NO ONE cared and she simply assumed that a birthday didn't mean anything. You just kept track of them so you would know how old you were when there were forms to be filled. You also kept track simply so you could tell the parents (who occasionally came by the orphanage looking to adopt) your age when they asked how old you were.
Not that that ever made much sense to her either. Why keep track of how may years you have been on earth? What did a number really tell anyone about who she was?
She came to decide it was a way to categorize people, place statues and limitations upon them so they didn't have to bother to get to know them before telling them what they could and couldn't do. It was easier than getting to know their true personalities; easier to just give everyone a cookie cutter persona based on years.
When she entered the academy she saw what birthdays meant. (Becoming a shinobi was sheer luck really; she was one of the few who was never adopted and the owners just wanted her out of the house so they could take care of the children with 'real' potential to be adopted)
She saw that birthdays were actually something special.
She would sit at her desk, on the ground, in a tree, and watch fondly as the birthday kids were fed cake, laughed, played games; watched as the colorful cone hat was placed upon the kid's head, as a happy song chimed throughout the room.
It was miraculous.
She never told anyone the day it was her birthday. Not having much experience with celebrations, she just expected that it would happen.
She didn't think it was necessary to tell people her birthday or ask for a celebration. She thought it just happened.
So, she waited.
Listening eagerly for the song.
Listening for the happy yells.
Watching for the cake.
Maybe even a present if she was lucky.
It never came.
Tenten had never felt worse. Not only had she failed to get a real birthday, but it had been the worst day of her life. Sensei had yelled at her, she didn't understand the jutsu they were taught, she failed a pop quiz, her so-called friend Marcy was talking about her behind her back, and she realized for the first time that she really didn't have any friends. She wanted to cry at the end of the day. She did cry once she was back in her shared room at the orphanage. She made sure, though, that no one would see the wet drops fall from her eyes.
It was the last time she ever cried over something so stupid.
It was also the day she learned to hate her birthday.
Every year after that she watched her birthday come and go, with no one caring.
No one asking.
No one ever really seemed to think of her when other holidays came around either.
The first family she ever had that even remotely cared was her team.
Not a family she would've picked, but then again, Tenten supposed one didn't really get to pick the type of family one got.
Gai – well…he scared her. He was weird, but the way he cared about Lee and the rest of them was really sweet. The way he believed in the underdog was admirable. The way he told her, she didn't have to be like everyone else, she could find her own way. Tenten loved him for that. Even if he was a bit eccentric. (Or a lot)
Neji – He was…quiet. And snobby too. In the beginning she wanted to kill him – he was just so pretentious. Tenten eventually saw that he was just…different. Different isn't a bad thing. He helped her train often and corrected her mistakes. Of course, he did it in such a pompous manner, but she could see behind the arrogance that he really was being a sweetheart.
Lee – He was…Well, he was Lee. As strange as she thought he was at first, he was very dedicated and very determined. He was still the oddest person she'd ever had the grace of meeting, but his personality was just so exuberant that you couldn't help but love him. He always cheered his teammates on, even when they pushed him away.
Gai always cheerily extended his festive greeting to them on holidays. Lee echoed his sensei's actions (just as cheerily). Neji wouldn't say a word, but he did tend to be less…moody and incompliant.
It was a form of caring, she knew, but not quite the kind she thought – the kind she saw extended to others.
She liked having them around.
She loved them a lot.
But she didn't think they loved her.
At least, not like a family should.
She was just a teammate to Gai, Neji, and Lee, not a sister – not a member of their family.
She wasn't the kind people cared about, doted upon, loved.
She rested her chin on her knees and sighed deeply.
Her eyes flicked to the clock hanging on the wall.
Fifteen minutes until the day was over.
Until her birthday was finally finished.
Tenten scowled as the pale light disappeared. Her body ensconced in shadows instead.
"Hi, Tenten!" Lee grinned charismatically from the windowsill.
Tenten blinked a few times to ensure that she was seeing right.
It would really suck if she was having delusions on the worst day of all the worst days.
Well, Lee wasn't disappearing, so she had to be seeing right….Right?
"Lee!" She hissed, "What are you doing?!"
Lee was…well, filthy would be too kind a word. He was covered in dirt, bruised, scratched, and his normally kept hair was completely in disarray.
She stood up and pulled him of the windowsill. "Lee, you're filthy."
The orphanage was pretty lax on rules, but the one thing they did care about was cleanliness. She was going to be in major trouble if he dirtied anything up.
"Sorry." He said sheepishly. "Just came back from my mission."
Tenten frowned. "And you decided to come here?" Tenten pulled some of her dirty clothes from the top of her bed and wiped at the residue he left on the windowsill.
Lee shook his head still grinning. "I didn't want to miss it."
"You couldn't have taken a shower first?!" She snapped. She presumed it was probably her attitude that made her an 'unloved' one. She tended to be too rude and too tart. Not a good trait in women apparently.
Lee kept grinning.
Although her traits didn't really seem to bother Lee. Very few things perturbed him (or Neji and Gai for that matter). Probably why she could call them family – they accepted her despite her faults.
She sighed in irritation. "Miss what exactly?"
He grinned at her.
She pinched herself.
So, not a dream…
"…W-What?" She stuttered.
"Happy birthday, Tenten!"
"Wh-What makes you think it's my…b-b-bir…?" She grimaced. "My…b-bir…?" She could even say the word out loud.
He shrugged. "It was Neji's idea. You do not share much, so he suggested we ask the owner of the orphanage when your birthday was." He was still grinning amiably. "I almost convinced Neji to come, but he said you would murder us if we showed up looking like we did."
"…I…was tempted to…" She really had been, but now, she couldn't form a single coherent thought, let alone manage to act on her want to kill (or seriously harm) him.
"Sorry we missed your birthday, Tenten!" He continued enthusiastically. "I had a present and plans," He paused then a frown settling on his lips, "but the mission we were given ruined my plans." His face fell.
"I…You…made it in time." She said dumbly. "There's still ten minutes of my b-b-bi-bir – of the day – left…"
Before she'd even blinked, Lee's arms were around her and he was hugging her very tightly.
Tenten stood still for awhile, confused by the whole action, then she wrapped her arms around the boy.
It was weird.
But weird in a good way.
Like Lee was weird in a good way.
Tenten wasn't used to the touchy feely nonsense.
Lee though, happened to be.
Upon being told they were teammates the first thing Lee did was hug all of them. Tenten stood stock still waiting for him to let go, blushing the entire time. Neji punched him away, but not before Lee got in a hug (he really was quick). And Gai, well Gai, reciprocated in kind.
She broke the hug after awhile and Tenten was incredibly surprised to find that her face was wet. She brought her hand up to her cheek and wiped away the wet tears. "Thanks, Lee…" She said softly.
Lee's dark eyes twinkled kindly and he held out his hands to her. In his palms lay a silver necklace. "I know you do not wear jewelry, Tenten, but Neji, Gai-sensei, and I got you this." It was a tiny little kunai blade on a silver interlocked chain. She took the chain from his hands gingerly. "…I love it, Lee."
He hugged her again. "I must go, but I promise you we shall have fun on your birthday next year!"
Tenten smiled as Lee bounded out the window. Only Lee would jump into the orphanage from a third floor window, covered in dirt, near midnight, just to say happy birthday. Most normal people would wait to wish her a belated birthday.
She reached down to straighten her clothes and then scowled. Tenten rushed over to the window and stuck her head out of it, the cold night air biting her skin. "Dammit, Lee," she yelled, knowing full well he would be able to hear her. "I'm covered in mud!!"
In a distance she could hear him respond back. "It's good for you!"
"How is that possible, you jerk!? I'm dirty! Being dirty is not good for you at all!" She scowled.
Then the lights in the nearby buildings went off and people yelled out in the dark. "SHUT UP!"
"SOME PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO SLEEP!"
A baby cried inside the orphanage and some pots clanged loudly.
"Tenten! The owner of the orphanage yelled from downstairs. "People are sleeping! Be quiet!"
She sighed and retreated back inside her room. She closed the window and sat down on the windowsill. She hugged her knees to her chest again, her eyes gazing at the night village. The moonlight streamed in from her window, drenching her now dirty clothes.
She turned the necklace around in her hands and her smile grew wide. Carefully she slipped the necklace around her neck. The white moonlight struck the pretty charm so it seemed to shine like a diamond.
It was beautiful.
The smile on her lips simply would not fade. She had a family.
And maybe she was lucky.
They seemed to love her too.
And even better, they loved her for who she was. She didn't have to be like those girls, she just had to be her. She didn't have to be like Ino or Sakura. She just had to be herself.
After all the years of wanting a family, it was about time she realized she'd always had one.
A/N: Yay! Happy birthday to Tenten.
(And me too. :D) It's my birthday today! Seventeen years. Hooray (I think…).