Disclaimer: Yeah... I own nothing, as usual.


"Freaking Tsunade, sending me on a mission on my freaking birthday." Tenten muttered angrily. At least it's only a C-rank. That means we get home sooner. She thought to herself, unsure of whether or not that was a good thing. On one hand, she wanted to be home to celebrate her birthday. On the other hand… she didn't want to imagine what foul plot Ino cooked up to get her a boyfriend, made better for the blond the date that should be the best day of the year for the girl. She shuddered.

"Youthful blossom! Have you finished packing? We must set forth quickly on our youthful mission!" Lee called to her from outside of her house. A smile found its way on her lips. "I'll be right there, Lee!" She shouted back. She hummed a bit as she slipped her last weapon into her pack and shouldered it, ready for anything.


Unfortunately, anything didn't turn out to be quite what she was ready for.

They were ambushed as they were delivering a letter to some kid's grandmother outside of the village, and there were so many of them Team Gai was having trouble holding them off. It would be so much easier if Gai himself were here, Tenten thought bitterly as metal rang against metal, both nins jumping back. Gai had been sent on a solo mission, and it was with many tears on Lee's part he was waved off not a week before. There were six of them, Lee fighting two, Neji three and Tenten was left with a single ninja. But, as nothing seemed to ever turn out right on her birthday, she was fighting the leader of the group, and thus the most powerful.

She gritted her teeth and summoned more of her weapons, undaunted by his mocking blows. She sent a flurry of kunai his way, only to have them deflected with utmost ease. Though, that was what she had been expecting. Just as his guard was let down, Tenten moved her katana fluidly through his stomach. Blood splattered over her body as she grimly pushed it deeper. The man choked, and as if in slow motion, fell to the ground, his eyes forever widened and his face in shock.

The shock of death.

The rest of the group, the grunts, looked upon their fallen leader, and then to Tenten. She didn't even bat an eyelash as she pulled out her katana from the dead body, glaring at them with fierceness in her gaze. Needless to say, they were scared shitless and ran with their tails between their legs.

When the last of them was out of sight and hearing range, Tenten crumpled to the ground, utterly defeated in her victory. She looked upon the fallen body with sadness. She looked away, unable to take the accusing stare the body gave her. She rose then, turning away from her teammates.

"Tenten-san…" Lee murmured quietly, knowing there was nothing anyone could do to comfort her. "You go on ahead." Her voice was cracking, and it was a pitiful attempt at cheerfulness. "You need to complete the mission, right? Go." She turned and bravely put on a smile before going unsteadily towards the direction of the lake. Her teammates remained for a moment, and reluctantly left.


She sighed as the cold water danced across her skin, walking into the pool with despair. She sank her body beneath the surface, leaving out only her eyes and nose. Her eyes decided to contribute a small amount to the large body of water, and lent their tears. Tenten tiredly scrubbed off the blood on her body. A familiar chakra signature moved towards her. "You should try to keep your emotions in check." A toneless voice, she turned around.

"I know." Out of the million and a half words to speak, she chose those. The main reason she was too emotionally exhausted to say more. Neji kneeled beside the water's edge. "The death could have been avoided." He said after a pause. The drained girl nodded, too weary to do anything more. Neji's eyes flashed. "Such impulses will get you killed someday." His only parting words, he stalked away.

Tenten sighed, and she knew that when she came out, she was going to be boiling over his words. For now, though… She sank deeper in. For now, she was far too busy wallowing in her guilt.


And right she was. When she stepped out of the pool two hours later, feeling thoroughly cleansed, the first place she went to was her team's old training grounds. Some heavy-duty target practice was in order. Her throws became more defined, and much sharper as she recalled Neji's previous words. She threw another kunai to the target.

The stained handle gleamed red in the setting sun.


Neji walked behind her as the last weapon in her grasp hit the target with a solid thud. She relaxed her position and stared into the night sky, not yet acknowledging his presence.

Tenten stayed quiet for a moment. "You know, it isn't our hearts that feel. Our hearts are merely tools, keeping the body living, breathing, and making sure all is in order. Emotions are in the mind, really. When someone feels strong enough an emotion, the brain sends impulses to the heart and tells it to speed up, slow down. It even tells the heart to feel pain when someone rejects you, for instance." Here, Neji felt a stab of… familiarity. He was rather confused by the feeling her words summoned. She went on, either ignoring it oblivious, the former being most likely.

"Emotions are what make us human. Yet I believe every creature has the ability to feel. For instance, holding a grudge is being emotional. Look at cats. It is said a cat's curse lasts seven generations. It means that the cat is mad at whoever wronged it. It means the cat can feel." She put a special emphasis on the word. An ominous wave of dark emotion swept through her body, raising her originally quiet voice octave after octave, when she finally broke, to the point of shouting. "Just because a girl is a kunoichi, it doesn't mean she can't feel! She can only push her emotions away for a time, but they always come back to her, tenfold! And do you know why that is, Neji? It's because when the body is forced not to feel, then it means something is wrong!" She was shoving her finger against his chest, reaching her breaking point. "You never gave much thought to the kunoichi in the village, did you? You always thought they were far too emotional, far too innocent, far too weak.

Well, I'll let you in on something, Neji-kun." Her voice drew itself into a dark whisper. "Us kunoichi are hell of a lot stronger than you'll ever be. We aren't afraid to show our emotions. We don't shrug off a kill like it was nothing. Yes, we are emotional. It's what we are, and it makes us strong. Yes, we are innocent, but only because we are strong enough to pass over the tough times. But one thing we kunoichi never are… is weak. That would have to be you, Neji. You use that emotionless mask to hide from the world." Her eyes softened and tears rolled silently down her face, given no attention to by the one crying. "You are the one who needs protecting, not me. Not me." Her body racked with sobs, she turned her head away from him. She was done.

When she looked back, her eyes met a bowed head, eyes unseen and fists clenched tightly at the sides. Tenten braced herself for a hit, for an attack, some kind of physical pain. She received none of those. But what she did receive threw her off so much; she wished there had been a hit.

"You're right."

And with those words, he pulled her into a hug, Tenten too shocked to say a word against it. "You're right, and I shouldn't have been so insulting. You're right." He kept repeating those words almost in a way of apology. More tears rolled down her face. Such a simple admission from Hyuuga Neji, of all people, made her heart ache, screw her earlier words. She cried into his shoulder as he rubbed her back soothingly, tightening his grip.

She quieted down after a while, and she lay still in his arms, having spent all her emotion. Neji leaned down and kissed her brow. He murmured into the soft skin of her forehead. "Tenten. Will you protect me?" Tenten, I love you. Tenten caught the double meaning of his words, and smiled shyly up at him. Quite a change of attitude from her earlier explosion.

"Only if you promise to hold me when I decide to be strong." A smile tugged at his lips before agreeing. "Deal. And… Tenten?" Neji leaned down to kiss her, this time on the lips.

"Happy Birthday."


A/N; ...I really wanted to submit something for my current female favorite character's birthday . ; Yeah... Sorry it sucks. Um, I actually had two ideas in mind when I wrote this one. So, that's why it's all screwy and weird.

Random facts about this chapter:

-It was somehow inspired by the AMVs to the songs Pretty Girl and Until the Day I Die made by xCattyx on youtube.
-I wrote it backwards
-I wrote the second half first and went back to write the first one- explains screwy-ness.
-I was supposed to be doing laundry; I did this instead
-This took me a fairly short time

And don't worry- I'll update A Single Beauty soon. I just wanted to wish Tennie a happy b-day :3

So, don't kill me T-T