Disclaimer: Again, I do not own Naruto, damn it. These stupid disclaimers make me feel so worthless. (sob)

A/N: I know I put my other story on hold, but trust me— I've been working on it too! This idea just suddenly came to me and I couldn't wait to put it down! I mean, come on. NejiTen is so great, but mixed in with Gaara? It's unstoppable.

And yes, I am aware that it starts out beautifully (I'm so modest, ha) and that it gradually starts to become crappier and crappier.

Eh, that's just how I write. Hahaha.

Oh well, I hope you guys like it.


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Could've Been, Might've Been

By: Kikushi

...

It could have been the way that her strapless, sleeveless silver dress— a fitted bodice of charmeuse and chiffon fabrics so magnificent, flaring out at the knees with flowing white vintage lace— clung tightly to her upper body like a second skin.

It could have been the way that her hair, usually in a tight-knotted odango atop her head, cascaded in large waves— like golden-brown rays of light— over her shoulder and down her back, just barely hanging above her slender waist.

It could have been the way that she was walking towards him, placing each slender foot in front of the other as she fluttered with beautiful goddess grace, her matching silver stilettos clacking in place as they made impact with the polished marble floors.

Or it might have been her expression. Her face, lovingly pale and glowing, complimented her smoldering chocolate-brown eyes. Her lips were full and slightly painted with pink gloss. Her cheeks were flushed a pretty crimson that made his mouth water... and she was scowling. Probably beyond irritated.

Of course. Why else on earth would he be so nervous? It is Tenten after all. He would admit that she looked pretty (maybe even slightly more than that), but he knew that the main reason he was so nervous tonight was because of the wrath of Tenten... Or so that's what he kept telling himself. Never mind the fact that the nervousness and the unexplainable heat that coursed through him only appeared upon Tenten's entrance. Forget that.

He gulped as she made her way nearer and nearer. 'She is so devastatingly beautiful.'

He scoffed. 'I meant devastatingly beautifully angry.'

Right.

He counted the steps she took until she reached him. 'Ten, twelve, fourteen…'

They stood face to face for a moment, both hesitating, unsure of what to say to each other. They were both dressed up and it was damn awkward… But forget that.

Why the hell were they dressed up in the first place?

"Neji Hyuuga, I absolutely demand to know what is going on here."

She was precious. He towered over her height easily, and as he looked down at her, he noticed for the first time how Tenten had, uh, grown these past few years. She was certainly well endowed.

Neji let out a low growl, mentally chastising himself. 'I was talking about her diamond necklace, of course.'

Of course.

He let his eyes travel to her silver necklace. A diamond key hung from it, the tip of the key slightly hidden behind her dress, comfortably settled in the valley of her breasts. That stupid key.

Neji growled again. What in the world was the matter with him?

"Neji, stop growling at me like a puppy and answer me!"

"Hn," he replied, slightly relieved that she did not notice his wandering eyes.

"Don't you 'Hn' me!"

He sighed. "Tenten, I do not know what this is about anymore than you do."

He watched as she huffed dejectedly and fell silent by his side. Minutes passed and ticked away before they finally heard a voice from the other side of the door call them. The Hokage.

They had both received a summoning the day before. Surprisingly, Lee had not been called to join them. This was to be a solo-mission, the Hokage had said. Imagine their surprise when they met each other, exchanging the news of their mission (the very same one!) just hours earlier. Had the Hokage lied to them?

"Tenten, Neji, you may come in now."

The two entered the dimly lit office of the Hokage. There was a tense air between them as they approached the Lady Tsunade's desk. One look at both of the teenagers' faces immediately indicated what was going on between them. The Hokage sighed.

"All right. I know that I said before that this was to be a solo-mission," Tsunade said seriously, "and it still is."

Two confused faces blinked back at her, but nevertheless stayed silent.

"Tenten. This is your solo-mission."

The girl visibly relaxed, but her face was still confused. "But then why is—?"

"Neji Hyuuga. You'll be her escort."

Neji tensed. "Just her… escort?"

"That's right."

"I'm afraid I don't understand," he prompted lightly. "Should I stand back and do nothing?"

"Well," the Hokage mused, "this is not the job for you, I'm afraid."

The prodigy twitched slightly in anger. "Please explain."

"It's a Kunoichi mission."

They both tensed. Neji almost dropped his jaw in shock. HIS Tenten? How could the Hokage have made such an unreasonable choice? Not that he thought Tenten was incapable of seduction, of course. He turned his head slowly to look at her. Her face was calm, almost stoic, but her hand at her side, Neji observed, was slightly trembling. 'Please refuse,' he mentally pleaded with her, 'Please.'

"I understand," she whispered.

The Hokage nodded at her. "Then it's settled. This mission will be a fast one. It will be at the festival tonight, right here in the village."

"Wait," Neji interrupted hastily, "Why Tenten? What about someone else?"

Tenten whirled around to face him, her expression surprised and offended. "You think I can't handle this by myself?!"

He ignored her and stared deadpanned at the Hokage.

She sighed and shrugged. "You know very well that Naruto, Sakura, and Sai are on a mission right now. Ino is still in the hospital, and unless you want me to send your cousin to do this job…" she trailed off.

Neji narrowed his eyes. Okay, so maybe it wasn't such an unreasonable choice. But still, the Hokage didn't have to drag Hinata in the conversation.

"Actually, you weren't even planned to come in the first place, Hyuuga."

Neji opened his mouth to protest—

"But," Tsunade interjected quickly, "I thought you might feel better about coming."

"But you better not interrupt!" Tenten added.

Neji looked at both women and sighed. "But of course," he replied to them both.

Tenten gave him a half-smile and turned back to the Hokage. "So, who exactly am I seducing again?" she inquired.

Tsunade looked away pointedly from Neji. "Well, about that…" she started, her eyes becoming shifty, "See, this isn't exactly a... No. What I mean is, this mission is…"

Was she stalling?

"What?" an impatient prodigy demanded.

"As you both know, our alliance with the Sand Village has finally been settled since Gaara came to rule," Tsunade began, folding her hands on her desk. "However, this alliance is limited and it does not extend to military back-up."

The Hokage stood, sighing and rubbing her temple. "This is something that our village needs most… and it is something the Village of the Sand is willing to grant."

"What!?" Tenten and Neji exclaimed in unison.

Tenten placed her hands on her hips, shaking her head."Wait! But there must be some condition! Some sort of catch or something!"

"Precisely."

Neji and Tenten waited. There seemed to be a long silence before Tsunade spoke again.

"Tenten, your mission is to seduce the Fifth Kazekage at the festival tonight."

"WHAT?!" The two teens exclaimed in perfect harmony once more.

"O-okay… but w-why?" Tenten asked, almost afraid of the answer.

"That's right," Neji said, "You never did tell us the condition."

"Well…" Tsunade began heavily, turning to face the window, "Tenten is of age, I suppose."

"What?" Tenten demanded, tired of the stalling. 'Can't she just spill it out?!'

There was another heavy sigh. "The condition is… marriage."

"WHAAAAAAAAAT?!" Tenten and Neji looked at each other in shock.

Tsunade cringed and cradled her head. 'Noisy brats,' she thought, irritated. "That's right," she continued, "As the Kazekage, he is searching for a suitable wife… A kunoichi."

Tsunade turned around to face Tenten. "So now that this is out, you can see that this isn't just a regular Kunoichi mission," she paused, unsure if either Neji or Tenten could even hear her. They were still frozen and open-mouthed. "I'm, uh, not selling you out, Tenten, but you're a strong woman and a family is all you've ever wanted, right?"

There was a long, long silence.

Eventually, Tenten's shocked expression slowly withered away, turning into confused concern.

"Neji? Is your nose… bleeding?"

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A/N: Unfortunately, this is the end of this chapter. I'm not sure when I'll have the time to write the next one… Although I do check my email a lot. Reviews might help. (:D)

I hope it was a good beginning!

Oh, and another thing, I already have the entire story plotted out. However, ideas and suggestions are always welcome! Who knows? I just might like your idea so much that I could make room for it in the story.

Okay! Back to work...