A/N: NaruTen, if you squint. Inspired by my thought (although others disagree) that TenTen and Haku look kind of a like. Not like, sibling a like, but more of a same clan alike. Neji and Hinata alike.
Disclaimer: These characters are owned by Kishimoto, the poor suckers.
Summary: Naruto learns that there might actually be something worse than not having any parents. Naruto and TenTen centric one-shot.
He couldn't make out the words, but Naruto found he wanted to cover his ears the closer he got to the voices yelling in the dark night. They were angry voices. No, they weren't angry. Iruka-sensei yelling at him for his latest prank was angry. These voices were so much more than that.
It wasn't often he wandered by this part of Konoha, and almost never this late at night, but he'd been unable to sleep and thought that some walking would help. And then he'd just kept walking, in whatever direction struck his fancy. It's not like anyone would know if he didn't tell them, anyway.
He could see the house the voices were coming from, and the light pouring out the windows reflected off an odd shadow sitting on the front porch. Naruto stared for a moment as he got closer before he recognized it. It was a girl with a very distinctive hairstyle sitting on the front stoop, staring out at nothing in particular. TenTen.
She jerked, looking up, as Naruto approached her. They stared at each other in silence for a while, Naruto wondering if he was supposed to say something and what on earth that could be, before TenTen broke eye contact and slumped over to hug her knees again. "I'm sorry if they're keeping you awake. You can complain with the rest of the neighbors to Tsunade-sama in the morning, if you'd like. There's usually a big group of them that go at first light."
Naruto shook his head, even though he was unsure if the kunoichi could see him. "I was just out for a walk."
Cursing and the sound of something breaking from inside the house. TenTen flinched, but didn't move.
He couldn't just leave her sitting there and walk on, when her eyes were so sad and she looked so small. TenTen wasn't like Hinata or Sakura was sometimes. She never seemed like she needed someone to protect her. It seemed so wrong to see her sitting her like this, hair falling out, forehead protector removed. He sat beside her.
TenTen tensed at this motion, but she didn't ask him to leave. Naruto thought she even seemed a little grateful for the company.
"Guy-sensei always thinks he is being helpful," her voice was little more than a whisper, muffled by her folded arms, and Naruto wasn't sure whether he was meant to hear it or not. "He's so sure I would be much stronger if they let me learn it, and I guess I would but…"
"It?" Naruto asked. He wasn't sure he would get an answer.
He did, but it was not of the expected kind. TenTen raised her hand half-heartedly, and the water from a nearby puddle left by the recent rain storm followed her movement to hang in the air for a few moments before crashing to shatter against the ground again.
Naruto stared at her, suddenly not seeing her but a boy with the same eyes on a bridge so very long ago that had taught him something important. "You…that…that's a blood limit!"
TenTen simply nodded, "my family is originally from Kirigakure. But we had to leave when I was very young."
"Because people in land of water don't like ninjas with blood limits, and kill them when they can," Naruto finished for her. She looked up, obviously surprised by his knowledge. "I met a boy with the same ability on a mission once."
"Our clan has been scattered for a long time." She brushed a loose strand back behind her ear. "My father thinks he should teach me to master it. My mother hates him for being the reason she had to leave everything behind."
There was the sound of a woman shrieking, and flesh hitting flesh. TenTen didn't turn around to see what was happening.
Naruto swallowed and picked up a stick from the ground nearby to play with. "Do they do this often?"
"I don't think they do anything else." It was stated so simply, but Naruto was not fooled. It was like when he'd remind Iruka-sensei that there was no one waiting for him at home. It was a fact, and one he'd learned to accept, but there were days and moments where it simply ached.
They were silent again, just listening to the noises of fighting inside the house, before TenTen let out a laugh. It wasn't a happy sound. "You know, they didn't even know I was going to the Academy until the day I graduated? I don't know what they thought I was doing all day."
Because of all the orphans, Konoha had a policy that children could be enrolled with special permission from the Hokage without a parent present. Sandaime had allowed Naruto to enroll in spite of popular opinion, but Naruto was still surprised the old man had allowed a girl with parents to enroll herself.
"I was so tired of all the screaming that one day, I ran away. I stumbled onto all the children playing, and I wanted to play. Sandaime-sama found me there, and said I could come whenever I wished." TenTen's eyes slid halfway closed as she continued. "My mother wouldn't speak to me for months after I showed up with my forehead protector. She was so angry that I wanted to be like him. That's why I don't usually use jutsu, just scrolls. My mother is more comfortable with that."
Naruto found he didn't know what to say to that. He knew what empty apartments with no one to talk to felt like. He knew what it felt like to reach out to someone and have them turn their back on you. He even knew the betrayal of it being someone you loved turning away. But a parent?
He tried to imagine Iruka-sensei—the closest thing he had to a parent, really—not speaking to him because of something he'd done right. That pain was almost unbearable, and he was only imagining it.
The younger boy could remember now the days just after the first round of fighting in the exam, when he'd gone with others to visit Lee. They had always walked, laughing quietly, past TenTen's room where she was always sitting by the window. Alone. "They never came to visit you in the hospital!"
"They never do. I don't think the notice I'm not here." She raised her eyes up to the sky, watching with a half smile as one star fell, leaving a white streak. "But when I'm the strongest kunoichi, they will have to."
She looked at Naruto, and grinned in spite of the the still yelling voices. "I'm going to be strong, stronger than Tsunade-sama. Then I'll go back to Kirigakure and make it safe for everyone again by becoming Mizukage."
Naruto couldn't help but gape at her. They were so different and yet…and yet… "Well, when I'm Hokage, I'll make sure to help you whenever the trouble gets too much for you! And you'll have to do the same for me, okay?"
TenTen laughed, a genuine laugh that might have been hiding pain or might have eased it a little. "I'll be saving you so many times, I won't have time to run my own village if I do that."