Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
A/N: I am so sad to see this story end, but nothing lasts forever… although, this one lasted 17 chapters past what I had anticipated it would when I first started it… lol… still I'm very happy with it, and incredibly touched by all your guy's support and all the wonderful reviews. I'm glad you all liked it. And I hope you enjoy the Epilogue.
THANK YOU ALL FOR READING WHAT IS LOVE… XD Enjoy the conclusion.
"There you go." The kunoichi adjusted the small stuffed animal onto the shelf above her desk.
"Tenten." Neji called out from across the small room.
He had walking in moments earlier, while the kunoichi finished her weekly cleaning; The prodigy had arrived just as she finished organizing her room. He had offered to help, but was instructed by the kunoichi sit down and stay out of her way. Doing as he was told, Neji had decided to wait on her freshly made bed.
"Huh?" Tenten turned to face the Hyuga, slightly irritated that he his tossing around had messed up her hard work.
"When are you going to get rid of that thing?" Neji dryly asked, as he stared up at the ceiling, trying to pretend like it didn't bother him, when in reality, he really wanted that thing gone.
"hah!" Tenten gasped, pulling the small toy back down to her; hugging it close to her chest. "Neji! How can you be so cruel?" She accusingly asked, looking down at the poor helpless stuffed animal in her arms. "He's just an innocent little baby. Aren't you?" she spoke to the small inanimate object.
"Fhh." Neji scoffed. "Well I don't like it. If you don't get rid of it, I will."
"hah!" Again, she gasped; this time clasping her hands over the poor creature's ears, as if to prevent the toy from hearing the Hyuga's harsh words. "But I love Gaara-kun!" She protested.
"What?" Neji abruptly sat up on the bed; his attention now fully focused on the girl before him.
"…" Startled at the sudden reaction from the Hyuga, Tenten stared at him questioningly for a moment, before realization finally hit her. "I meant this one." She pointed to the stuffed panda in her arms.
"Hn." Neji relaxed slightly; though it was evident he was still not happy. "You named that thing after him?"
"…" Tenten nodded wearily. "Well it looks just like him." She reasoned. And she had named the stuffed animal when the Kazekage first gave him to her; it wasn't like she was going to rename him once that whole incident at the fireworks display occurred (that would be cruel to the bear… you just don't change someone's name all willy-nilly). (1)
"Hn." Neji sulked. "All the more reason you should get rid of it."
"Neji?" Tenten amusedly smirked. "Am I detecting jealousy? And towards a stuffed animal, no less?"
"No." He denied; adorably pouting as he did.
Of course, Tenten could tell he was lying. She may have not seen it before; believing that he could never possibly harbor the same feelings toward her that she had for him. But after the incident at the festival, Tenten finally understood that all those times she had wondered if … 'maybe'… when he glared at other guys who walked up to them; or when he looked over at her in concern every time she got hurt. She had wondered if he might have feelings for her, but always denied it; believing it was merely wishful thinking on her part. She never would have suspected that in fact, exactly what she had always believed/hoped was there, really did in fact exist. Neji really did love her; and now Tenten knew it.
'Baka.' She laughed. It was ridiculous to imagine that he loved her so much, he was even jealous of toy!
Trying to suppress her giggles, Tenten turned to the shinobi with a serious look on her face.
"Well you know." A slight smirk betrayed the teasing nature of her comments. "Even if I got rid of baby Gaara here," she pointed to the bear. "It won't erase anything." The smirk grew wider; one that would put a Hyuga I-know-better smirk to shame any day. "Can't be helped. After all, a girl always remembers her first kiss."
"Hn." Neji moved across the bed toward the corner where the kunoichi was standing. "Is that so?" Grabbing hold of her wrist, Neji swiftly pulling her toward him. "Then I'll just have to make you forget." He proclaimed, before swiftly pulling her into his arms, bringing her lips down towards his.
In an instant he pulled her to the bed with him, before flipping himself over on the mattress so that he lay hovering over the kunoichi.
"Stupid bear." Neji grunted, batting the stuffed animal off the corner of the bed where it had landed, before he continued his assault on the kunoichi's mouth.
Swooping down to claim the kunoichi's pouting lips, the Hyuga displayed a burst of passion and impulse Tenten was becoming accustomed to seeing. His lips burned as he eagerly pressed his hungry mouth to hers; his tongue reaching out to run along her lower lip, twisting its way into her mouth.
Tenten knew he meant it when he said he would make her forget that kiss; what Neji didn't realize, however, was that, as clearly as she remembered that night of the fireworks, it wasn't the kiss from Gaara she recalled, it was the second kiss that night that she remembered best of all.
"I do not wish to carry with me any regrets." Gaara stated before bringing his lips down on to the kunoichi's..
The kiss had been surprising. It was warm and affectionate; simple and sweet. But it just didn't mean anything to her.
Tenten had always thought of Gaara as a sweet, albeit easily misunderstood, interesting boy. He was timid, yet bold and unashamed at the same time. He was good guy, and an interesting person. Tenten could even go so far as to consider him cute in his child-like innocence. But she had never even thought of the possibility of anything ever existing between the two of them. No doubt, she reasoned, it was due to her being blinded by the feelings she harbored for Neji.
When Gaara kissed her, Tenten was completely taken off guard. Her breath had caught in her throat, as the young Kazekage boldly pressed his lips to hers. It only lasted a brief moment, before Tenten looked up to find Gaara hanging off the clenched fist of her white-eyed teammate.
In the moment that she didn't react, Tenten noticed that something pass between the two of them. What that was, she didn't know. All she saw was Neji speak, before being interrupted, and then Gaara left. Shortly after that, Neji had turned to look at her; a crushening sorrow in his eyes before he too walked off in the opposite direction.
Tenten was so confused.
'What happened?' The kunoichi asked herself.
Everyone was looking at her, almost as if they were waiting for her to react. But she couldn't. She didn't know how to react.
What did it mean? Why had Gaara kissed her? More importantly, why had he asked her if she had feelings for Neji before he kissed her? She wanted answers from him, but more than that, she wanted answers from Neji.
Why had he reacted in that manner? What concern was it of his if Gaara kissed her? Why had he looked at her the way he had? Did it mean something?
"Neji." The kunoichi began running before she even realized her body was moving.
It didn't take her long to find him. She knew where he would be.
"Neji." Tenten nervously called out to the prodigy, as he sat against their favorite tree in the clearing.
"Tenten." Neji rose to his feet; surprise and confusion in his eyes.
"Neji, tell me what's going on." Tenten demanded; but her tone wasn't harsh at all. There was a pleading to her voice; she really wanted to understand. "Why did you…" She couldn't bring herself to ask; couldn't allow herself to believe that he had reacted the way he had because somewhere inside him, he had been jea…
'No.' she shook head. "I don't need false hope."
"Hope?" Neji walked to her.
"hah." Tenten gasped; she hadn't realized she had said that out-loud.
"Hope, for what?" Neji question.
"Nothing." Tenten denied.
"Why did you come here, Tenten?" Neji anxiously asked; there was something in his eyes, a sort of fear and anger, mixed in with… desire?
"What…" Tenten looked at him with great confusion.
"You could have chased after him, why didn't you?" Neji asked.
"I told you already, we're not…" Tenten began.
"You act as if you are." Neji stated, in an almost accusing tone; though Tenten wondered if she also detected a child-like whine in his voice.
"He's my friend." Tenten replied. For some reason, his words hurt. It was as if he were accusing her, and each accusation felt like a dagger through her heart; as if he denied knowing her.
"That's an interested way of treating your 'friend'" Neji venomously spoke; casting his gaze to forest floor, as if he didn't even want to look at her. (2)
"Neji, what's wrong with you?" Tears were beginning to well in her eyes. "You're hurting me." She half whispered.
Looking up, Tenten's eyes locked with the shimmering white eyes of the man before her. What she saw surprised her.
Tears running freely down the Hyuga's pale skin; glowing in the moon's light.
She didn't understand. He was crying? Why?
"Ne-" She gasped.
"I'm sorry." Neji apologized.
"hah." Sobbing gasps prevented her from asking, but she wanted to know what he was apologizing for. Tenten didn't understand, what could he possibly have to be that sorry about? To cry about?
"I was coward." Neji explained. "I was afraid, and I did nothing." He walked up closer; his eyes fixed directly at her.
"What are you trying to say Neji?" Tenten asked; swallowing back her tears.
"I'm in love with you Tenten." His eyes penetrated deep within her, as if they could see all the way into her core. "I've always been in love with you Tenten."
Her heart stopped beating at the sound of those words. It what she had always longed to hear, but always feared to hope for. She was stunned; frozen in place, as Neji lightly caressed the side of her face.
"May I?" He asked.
"…" Unable to speak, Tenten nodded her agreement.
Slowly, Neji's lips met hers with the softest touch imaginable; barely brushing the flesh of her mouth. It was different from the earlier kiss. While Gaara's kiss had been surprisingly passionate, Neji's was tender and slow. Yet despite the seeming difference in heat and urgency, the sweet and soft caressing of Neji's lips, were on a completely different level from her previous kiss… Gaara's had meant nothing; done nothing. But the soft whisky brushing of Neji's lips sent a delicious shiver down the kunoichi's spine, making her feel as if she could easily melt in his arms. (3)
"What are you smiling about Ino?" Sakura asked her bubbly best friend.
"Oh nothing much." Ino cheerfully replied.
"Whatever." Sakura rolled her eyes, before turning back to the menu in her hands. "So it's just the two of us today then?" she asked from behind plastic sheets.
"Well," The blond began. "Naruto, Lee, Sai and Shino are all on a mission together." Sakura saw the girl twist, and couldn't help but agree; that was a very unusual combination. "Hinata and Kiba are busy with the whole Hyuga elder affair; Tenten and Neji are lost somewhere in their blissful little world; and Shikamaru's on a delivery to Suna."
"And Chouji?" Sakura asked; a knowing smirk on her face.
"um…" A slight blush crossed the blond kunoichi's face; hardly noticeable to an outside observer, but Sakura caught it nonetheless. "I didn't invite him."
"Oh?" Sakura curiously asked.
"I kind of wanted to talk to you about something." Ino shyly glanced down at her hands.
"Something he couldn't be here to listen?" Sakura teased.
Sakura knew that things hadn't worked out between Ino and Sai; not that anyone was surprised by that. However, everyone had been surprised to realize that in fact, Sai wasn't gay after all. 'Can any really be blamed though, he certain dresses the part.' Sakura mused.
Unfortunately, Ino had rebuked the rumors in a rather unfortunate visual manner, when she walked in on said shinobi making out with a certain older, militant kunoichi instructor. (4)
It had definitely stung the blond girl's pride, and she, as a result, had ended up finding comfort in a friendly ear. As always, Chouji was there to help the girl through her troubles; constantly supporting her in every thing she did. It was a true wonder she had never noticed it before; but it seemed, now, Ino was beginning to take an interest in her robust teammate.
"Shut up." Ino embarrassedly shouted.
It was a true wonder what the quite, peace-loving Akimichi saw in the loud, overbearing blond; but it really was too cute.
Meanwhile, in Suna
They were at it again.
Already Gaara had informed the counsel that he would not follow along with their plan to have him marry by the end of the year. The woman who would forever be remembered as the Kazekage's first love had once told him it wasn't right to force himself to do something he didn't want to do. Leaving her to another man was not something Gaara had wanted to do, but it also was not something he had had to force himself to do. Learning to live with the knowledge he could never have her, was also not something he wanted to do, but not something he felt forced upon him. On the other hand, having to fulfill the counsel's wishes that he should find and marry a girl whom he did not love… that was something he could not tolerate.
It was something Gaara could, and would, not force himself to do.
The counsel did not approve of his refusal. They had threatened to invoke an outdated law that required the Kazekage be married by the age of adulthood, lest he should be replaced by another.
"I don't think they'll do it." The lazy leaf shinobi passively commented from across the room.
"I agree." Temari nodded. "There's no one else in the village who could take your place." She offered from beside the Nara.
The two had been spending more time together then usual. It seemed to Gaara that perhaps they were finally ready to admit their feelings for one another to the rest of the world.
Of course, that didn't mean they didn't occasionally still get on one another's nerves.
"That's why I said they wouldn't." Shikamaru lazily mumbled.
"I know that, I was just saying it clearly!" Temari shouted.
"Hey you two!" Kankuro yelled for them to stop; not that it did any good when they got that way. "Idiots." The puppet-mastered rolled his eyes, before turning to Gaara, as the couple continued bickering in the background. "It's too bad things didn't work out with Tenten, eh? That at least had the counsel distracted for awhile."
"Hn." Gaara turned his head toward the ceiling; blocking out the noise of the lover's quarrel taking in place in his office, as he considered Kankuro's words.
Yes, the counsel had seemed to back off during the brief time in which rumors had been circulating about his relationship with the bun-haired kunoichi. Kankuro and Temari had even helped to spread the rumors in Suna for many weeks after the incident at the festival. Even when Tenten and Neji brought their relationship to the public in Konoha, rumors in Suna still circulated for a few more months before the counsel finally learned the truth. The distraction had served as a temporary solution to the tiresome issue about his marriage. Perhaps it was because the counsel felt that their wishes were already being following; or maybe, Gaara wondered, they just really wanted a wedding to take place in Suna.
"…" Gaara considered the latter option. "Perhaps if Temari and Shikamaru were to marry…" He voiced aloud.
"WHAT?!" The aforementioned couple immediately ceased their bickering to face the Kazekage; both wearing a similar expression of fear and shock.
"That might work." Kankuro loudly laughed, as the couple averted their eyes from one another; deep matching blushing coloring their complexions.
A/N: Before anyone asks, there will SOOO not be a sequel to this one... it ends here. I will however say, I'm not opposed to writing the KibaHina aspect of this story into a oneshot or maybe a 2/3/4-shot... but nothing too long... maybe... (don't quote me on that)... Anyway...yeah...
It's over!... so sad… but guess what? That means, at LONG LAST… I can begin writing the sequel to WIND AND DRAGON… it'll be a few days though, because I have an exam on Friday (which I should really start studying for I think), then after that I have to rewrite my Moot Court Brief and Oral argument, but I think I'll probably take no more than a week before I start on the Sequel… so if anyone is interested in following my next project, if you haven't already read WIND AND DRAGON… I totally recommend doing that now… before the sequel comes out… XP
(1) hehehe… I just wanted to say willy-nilly… lol… also, REMEMBER, Gaara was naming all his prizes after people… so Tenten did the same (thinking the panda looked like Gaara; even though Gaara thought it looked like her).
(2) I just want to make a NOTE here, this is TENTEN'S POV, so just because it seems like Neji's being mean, that's not TRUE!!... She's just feeling personally attacked and a bit vulnerable at the moment… but Neji's hurting too…
(3) So how was that kiss?... I tired.. still… they're so hard to do…
(4) Anko… lol… I was half tempted to say Sai was gay, and that his gay lover was Kankuro… but I decided to contradict everything I said before, because that's just how I am… hehe XP
Once more, thank you all so much for your loving support!... hope to see you all in the future… laters! - E
ONE LAST THING
To check out the fanart I made for this fic (new ones for this chapter too), go to my profile and click on the links to my deviantArt account... and don't forget to leave me comments! ;P