I'm sorry this wasn't up sooner. I've had a lot of schoolwork and not a lot of inspiration for this Epilogue. Because of that, I'm sorry in advance if this isn't what you were wanting to see or expecting. I know personally that it isn't my best work (I have a nasty habit of not finishing strong), but I really could not figure out another way to write it and put down the ideas I wanted to other than the way it is. So, in advance, my apologies.
I want to thank each and every person who has ever read or reviewed this Fic. This has been up on this site for about four years now, and it's been a dual source of angst and joy in my writing career. Truly, I'm glad it's finished. Throughout these past years, I have received much encouragement pertaining to this Fic, and for that I thank all of you who contributed by reading or reviewing. Your support means the world to me, and I appreciate the active part you played in influencing me and the writing of this Fic. You guys rock, and it is literally impossible to express how much gratitude I hold for all of you. :) -KNO.
Disclaimer: For the last time, Kishimoto owns every single recognizable character and place. The UFC is an organization within itself, so credit is also due to them. The remaining content is my own.
Time is a funny thing.
It changes and shifts and rearranges, and through all of it you don't even recognize it's happening. And when you're at the end of the change or starting anew, you realize something transpired. Time passed without you knowing it.
It was unbelievably hot in May, when Neji graduated. The ceremony was held outside, in unbearable heat, and lasted longer than was necessary.
Neji was valedictorian. He had spent weeks trying to figure out what to say in his mandatory speech. The first time I heard it was the last time he would be delivering it.
"Today we stand at a threshold. In life, we don't always realize that's what we're doing. We take a class, move to a new place, meet someone new. We're constantly in this sea of change that we don't even see.
"We have our supporters—our safe harbors of our families and friends. But soon, they won't be with us that much longer. Time is sweeping us along the current and pushing us out to open waters. A lot of us are ready to move on, move out, and start our lives independent of these people who helped to shape us. But we always need to remember that despite time, the people we love the most are always there for us. As you embark on this new journey of your lives, never forget that you have people who care about you. They're always there, and they'll always be waiting for you to return home."
I was embarrassed to feel the pain of repressed tears, so I blinked and let a few slip down my cheeks.
That summer was the best time of my life.
Neji and I saw each other almost every day, taking frequent trips to the beach with Sakura, Naruto, and the others.
It was easy to feel like it would keep on going forever, an endless summer.
Reality, however, waits for no one. Not even someone in love.
Neji and I sat next to each other on the edge of the roof, our legs dangling out in the air.
He found my hand and squeezed it.
"Don't go," I said.
Neji's mouth lifted slightly.
"I can't not go," he responded a few seconds later. "I've already gone through so much trouble for it."
I rolled my eyes and Neji treated me to a tender gaze.
"You would get bored of me very easily if I stayed here."
I shook my head.
"No, I wouldn't."
"Fine. You would get very annoyed with me," Neji amended.
I leaned my head on his shoulder.
"Listen," Neji said after a considerable silence, "you've got so many things going for you. I've turned over the team to you. You've got one more year left of school and then you're done. . . Have you even considered what you want to do after graduation?"
I shook my head.
"I'm not smart enough to go to college," I said.
Neji rolled his eyes.
"Yes, you are."
"Fine. Then, I don't want to go to college. I don't see the point."
Neji considered this.
"Well, then what are you going to do?" he asked. "Work?"
I frowned a little, debating.
Eventually, I pulled out the sheet of paper from my pocket and handed it to him.
Neji looked it over while I explained.
"There's this thing called the UFC. They pay you for the fights you do and you get endorsements. It's the real thing."
Neji glanced at me.
"Naruto told me about it, and I watched some of the fights online. To get in, you have to apply and send them tape of your fights, and if they like you, they call you up."
"You're serious about this?"
"I like it, Neji. I don't what it is about this sport or beating the crap out of people, but I like it. . . I guess it's just in my blood."
Neji raised his eyebrows at the paper as he looked it over.
"You really want to make this a career?"
"I heard Sakura tell you once that I wasn't like the rest of you. I'm different. And what she said was right. I'm different than all of you. I have a passion for this. I can't see myself ever quitting or not fighting."
Neji looked out over the low-lying buildings, thoughtful.
"You're something else," he muttered. Neji glanced at me, understanding in his eyes. "I just wish you didn't have to fight for everything. I wish I could just give it to you."
I smiled, leaning forward to kiss him, slowly and sweetly on the mouth.
"Fighting builds stamina," I recited, repeating one of Neji's fond phrases from one of our early sparring sessions. "Besides, I'm a girl who fights for what she wants."
Neji pressed our lips together again, encompassing me in his arms.
"That's why I love you," he said softly.
I smiled at him and leaned my head on his shoulder. Sitting there with him on the night before he left for college, it felt like nothing had really changed. Like even after he left, our souls would stay right where they were, together and infinite.
Thanks always for reading and reviewing. :)