Summary: When summer's just around the corner, what better way to celebrate than to simply write a message in a yearbook? 'I'm sorry, for everything.' NejiTen, oneshot. Companion/Prequel to The Book. AU. R&R
A/N: This is the long overdue oneshot companion/prequel to The Book. I hope you enjoy this, because this is slightly weird. =/ Oh well.
Naruto does not belong to me, but to Masashi Kishimoto.
The end of the year is almost always busy, what with exams, projects and little annoyances. Of course, the former is not really a problem for me. I am a genius after all, but sometimes, all the craziness of the end of the year takes a toll on you. But that's not the real reason I hate it.
No. The real reason lies in something else entirely. It lies within the fact that I won't be seeing a certain person for nearly two months. Unless of course, I intercept her at the airport, and somehow manage to change her mind from doing that case-study on ancient Medieval Literature with her aunt and instead, spending time with me. But, I'm not that guy. And those things normally never happen, except in movies. My life, no matter how much people think, is not a movie.
So, you might be wondering why on earth, a person like me, the genius that goes by the name Neji Hyuuga, would decide to hate an entire time period because of a girl.
Well, it's technically because of the fact that I love her.
And that's where nearly all of my problems started.
You know, it started with the little things. Like the time when we were five, and met while she was playing the sandbox. The moment she laid her eyes on me, she decided that I was a worthy target of her sandball, and proceeded to hit the back of my pristinely washed head with one. I cried for days, not because of the pain, but rather because of the trauma that went with having my lovely, clean hair soiled by an impertinent girl.
Needless to say, I got even. I staked claim on the sandbox the week after the incident, and when she was near enough, I squirted her with my Ultra 2000 Speed Of Light water gun. Instead of squealing at me and crying, she just picked up a knot of grass and hurled at my forehead.
My pride was wounded for the second time. That's when I realized that Tenten was not an ordinary girl. She was insane. That was also when I realized that perhaps I was too. The revelation was not good for my five year old soul, but for some reason, I stuck it out. The insanity waned over the years, and I became my stoic, cool self that I am now. Except when Tenten is around. That's when things get kooky.
Then, on the first day of kindergarten, we met Lee. He was the perfect brand of enthusiasm to go with Tenten's insanity. I still remember how she bonked that guy, Kankurou, on the head with her stuffed animal because he stole her crayon, and Lee cried rivers of tears because he wasn't there to save her. I gave him a look that I hoped had said, 'grow up Lee'. I think it must have backfired, because he obviously translated it as, 'I feel your pain dude'.
Over the years, we were, for the most part, inseparable. Lee, with his unbridled passion for the finer points of life, and extreme exercise. Me, with my freaky intelligence, anecdotes, and long hair. Then, there was Tenten, with her crazy ideas, wild fits of creativity, and the way she always tended to beat people up when they didn't agree with her. Out of the three of us, she was the one who got the most time outs (adding up to nearly six hours of fifteen minute time outs), the most goals in the various games we played, and for some reason, the most beef from girls who thought she was not 'one of them'.
There was another time, in grade seven, when Karin (wearing a mini-skirt and heavy make up), loudly asked if she was actually a guy. Not only did this give me a vivid picture of Dora Ratjen(1), it also led to Tenten dragging Karin through the hallway by her hair, effectively ripping out her extentions to reveal her brutally short hair cut. (I heard later that this was the result of a failed chemical experiment on Tenten's part, but anyways). Karin ran out in tears, and Tenten narrowly avoided suspension thanks to her savvy people skills. It could also be because of the fact that nearly the entire female student body would have walked out with her if she had been suspended. Maybe a couple of the males too.
Through all those years, I also realized something that startled me. It happened a little while after puberty struck, when I realized, one night, that I was in love with her.
It was so sudden, but the damn thought refused to leave me alone. I plagued me for the better part of grade eight, and all through high school. Nearly every day, I was vividly reminded of her stunning curves, that beautiful brown hair, and that perfectly chiseled face. I stopped insisting to myself that I only loved her as a friend after I accidentally kissed her during Naruto Uzumaki's Christmas party. I enjoyed it way too much. After that, the resignation to the fact didn't really do much to help me with my problem, but there was nothing I could do.
I was in love. I am in love. And she's leaving me.
"Neji, pass me the HCl before I throw it at your face." Tenten snapped. I raised one eyebrow and handed her the beaker of diluted HCl. The smile she gave me took my breath away for a few brief moments. "Thanks, Nej."
I bristled. "Don't call me Nej, Tenten." I replied, glaring at her. "It is annoying."
She rolled her eyes at me. "I'm sorry, but that last syllable totally kills your name. Nej sounds badass, Neji. Why can you not accept that?"
I glared at her. "It's Neji, Tenten. Ne-ji. You don't see me calling you Ten now do you?"
Tenten pouted, then sighed. "Of course not. My name is Ten times two. Which makes it Twenty!" she said brightly, bringing the anology to a full circle. I huffed but didn't say anything.
She looked at me delightedly. "You just huffed at me!" she said, grinning widely.
"I did not Tenten. It was a display of impatience. Please get it right." I replied, uncapping my pen and watched as she dropped a piece of zinc into the test tube. The solution began to fizz as the zinc began to be eaten. I wrote down my observation as Tenten set it down on a test tube holder and turned to face me.
"Neji, just accept it. You are capable of emotion, just as much as the rest of us." she told me, smiling. I gave her a glare.
"I, Tenten, am a Hyuuga. As one of the heirs of a corporate company, I have been reared, from childhood, to not display any form of emotion on my face. Emotions lead to the truth, when sometimes you can't tell people the truth." I explained to her. "Now please, shut up. Do you want to pass this practical or not?"
She sighed and drummed her fingers against the counter. For a few moments, a silence settled over the both of us, only broken by the scratching of my pen or by the beats of her fingers. "So Neji," she began, "let's say hypothetically you liked someone. Would that mean that all this time, you've been hiding it under a mask of cool calmness?"
The scratching of my pen paused. I cursed my stupidity in my mind. Why did I have to go tell her the mechanics of keeping your feelings locked away? It didn't help that what she had said was not hypothetical. But she didn't know that. She didn't have to know that just yet, either.
I didn't reply for a few moments, concentrating on my work. I could feel her gaze on me and felt beads of sweat form on my forehead. Then I sighed and said, "Yes, I suppose that it would mean I would hide it. But I'm still talking hypothetically."
Tenten didn't say anything, just gave me the briefest of nods. "Alright," she said, smiling, "just finish up the chemical equation and we can dump it into the sink for Kakashi to take care of."
"His name is Mr. Hatake, Tenten." I stated patiently.
"Potato, potahto." she replied, rolling her eyes as she packed up the equipment. I carefully wrote our names on top of the sheet of paper, and stapled our lab notes together and left it on the teacher's table. "Oh hey, Neji, wait." Tenten called. I turned around and walked back to her, only to have a leaflet shoved into my chest. "Here, this is for this year's yearbook." she said, smiling.
"Oh?" I asked, looking down at it. "Tenten, we're just juniors. It's not until next year that we're going to have to worry about memories." I said patiently. She shrugged.
"It might be a nice thing to have, you know? Considering this is the first summer we won't be spending together." she replied. "Lee's off to his martial arts tournament all summer, and I'm off to Europe. It'll be something interesting to look at while you sit at home moping about not being able to tan."
I took the leaflet from her hand and scanned it. "How much is it?" I asked.
"About thirty dollars." she replied. I gave her a look. She sighed. "Oh Neji, this isn't the time to be a cheapie." she said.
"Tenten, it's a freaking book with pictures that costs thirty dollars. Unless they're planning to print it in colour this year, I won't be spending that much." I replied, tossing it into the recycling bin. "Anyways, I have to go home before Hiashi goes protective on me and chains me to my bed."
Tenten looked surprised. "What happened to your childhood vow to kill him and scatter his ashes to the wind?" she enquired.
"I figured I'd kind of be overdoing it." I replied. "But I'll keep that in mind the next time he makes me stay home when I get the sniffles."
The next day, for the most part, began uneventfully. Unless you count Hanabi melting a spatula yet again, and managing to burn salad in the oven, it was rather uninteresting. It wasn't until I got to school that I was shoved an unpromptu invitation to yet another one of Naruto's infamous parties.
The blonde was bouncing on the balls of his feet excited, and holding a bunch of bright orange envelopes. "Yo, dude, this is gonna be like the best end-of-year party EVER." he said, grinning as he gave me an invitation. "I like, wanted to print off a whole bunch and shove them into people's mailboxes, ya know? And have the party in the park, but mom said that she wouldn't cater and I would have to take care of the costs. I'm totally broke, so, it's just for us school people."
I had gone to many of Naruto's parties, and I knew the three components they always had. Spiked punch, video game tournaments, and a trampoline. Not to mention copious fireworks, and tons of beer.
I had woken up that morning with the annoying reminder of Tenten's departure in a few weeks, and I figured that my fake ID was getting slightly overused for alchohol. Anywhere with cheap vodka was a good enough place for me.
"I'll be there." I said, and Naruto grinned.
"That's awesome dude!" he yelled, hugging me before running off. I shook me head, and smiled slightly. Insane ADD people or not, this would be a blast.
Two evenings later, I was dressed in casual clothing and rang the doorbell to Naruto's home. The door was already open into the cavernous depths of his large house, and I walked in.
The living room was darkened with music blasting out of the speakers. The furniture had been cleared to make a makeshift dance floor, with people sitting around it, holding cups of punch or bottles of beer.
"Neji!" Lee yelled, grinning at me. "Is this not a wonderful way to celebrate our youth and vitality?" he asked over the music. "I must remember to thank Naruto for this wonderful gala."
"You do that," I replied, "while I go find Tenten. Do you know where she is?"
"I saw her outside with Sakura. She was having a wonderful time jumping upon the trampoline." he told me. I nodded and thanked him while I went off to find her.
See, in the short space of time between the lab practical and now, I had come to a conclusion. I would tell her. I would tell her that I loved her, and that I cared for her, and beg her not to leave me alone to cradle my broken heart this summer. I didn't know how successful I would be, but at least I would know that I had not been a coward.
I made my way towards the french doors, when I was accosted by Naruto and Kiba. "Neji!" Naruto yelled, hugging me. "Thanks for coming! Have a drink!"
Kiba shoved a martini glass into my hands, and I gazed into the depths. "I dunno, I have to go do something first--"
"Dude, there'll be time for that later." Kiba said impatiently. "Come and have a drink with us man, we never get to talk!"
I sighed and relented, casting a forlorn look outside the doors. Tenten seemed to be having the time of her life there, while I was being dragged away by two idiots to a bar.
I sipped the martini, and soon, the drink had vanished from the glass. I had never prided myself on how much liquor I could hold, but when Naruto challenged me to a drinking contest, I couldn't say no.
"Dude, 'mm sssso hammered!" he slurred. I nodded dumbly, my brain too fuzzy to register much at all. He giggled and turned his face to me. "Heyy, I dare you to do something."
"What?" I mumbled. I was too drunk to berate myself for my stupidity, at the time. It was fun to see the world in so many different colours and spinning all at once. I didn't want it to stop.
"Kiss a girl." he said, giggling again. "Ino. Go kiss Ino-chan."
I slid off the stool and crossed the dance floor with an unsteady gait. Ino looked so pretty, with her blonde hair all tied up and ringlets all loose. The blonde hair morphed into brown strands, and the blue eyes turned to brown ones. The features melted into Tenten's, and I slurred, "Hey beautiful," before kissing her.
I was so caught up in being drunk that it didn't occur to me that her lips were not soft enough to be considered Tenten's. I pulled away and staggered backwards.
It was my mistake that I didn't pull away fast enough.
The screech made my head turn, and I saw Tenten standing there, looking outraged. I gaped at her, just as she pulled her fist back and punched me in the head.
The next morning, I didn't know how I managed to get home. I lay there on my bed, and groaned, my hangover from hell not going away thanks to the light from the sun.
When I did manage to get out of bed, I reached for my cellphone and yawned as I checked my voicemail. My brain jolted itself out of its sleepy state when I heard Tenten's voice.
"Neji, this is Tenten. This is just to let you know that you're an arrogant, selfish bastard. I swear to God, Nej, I don't know if you're blind, or deaf, or just immune to people's feelings, but you broke my heart yesterday. You really did.
I just want to say, don't talk to me. I don't think I can stand talking to you. At least not for a while. God, I can't wait to get away from you. It'll just be one more week of school, and that's it. I don't know how I'll face you next year, but I swear, when we do meet again, you are so gonna get it from me.
That's not exactly the way people want to start off their mornings. I yawned as I sat up, the world still slightly off-kilter. I reached for some painkillers to get rid of my headache, and stumbled into the bathroom to get changed for school. Trust Naruto to hold parties on school nights.
I managed to get to school more or less in one piece, but dreaded meeting Tenten. I couldn't face her after how I had royally fucked up yesterday. Needless to say, she didn't face me all day. Not in homeroom, not in Chem, and definitely not during lunch.
For my part, I didn't even try to talk to her. I knew what I had done was stupid, but I didn't know how I could make it up to her. Watching her ignore me broke my heart. It really did.
I finally gathered my courage and went up to speak to her after school. She was sitting on the bench, by an oak tree, flipping through a green book.
"Tenten." I began, looking around nervously. She glared at me.
"Whatever you have to say, just stuff a baked potato in it, Neji." she replied viciously, and shoved past me. I sighed and looked up at the sky.
The worst part about this entire situation was that I had no idea how to make it right.
Until I spotted the green book lying on the bench. I picked it up curiously and stared at it, reading the words in gold on the front cover.
My mind flashed back to the conversation we had, and guilt seeped into my veins yet again as I remembered how I had thrown away the leaflet so callously. I tucked it under my arm and looked around to see if Tenten was there. She was long gone. Sighing, I walked home under the sweltering sun, with nothing to my name but a kiss with the wrong girl.
I lounged on my bed that evening, flipping through the yearbook. It was brand new, and the white pages in the front and back were clean and crisp. No one had written in them yet.
Then, I had an idea. I reached for my fountain pen, and in my best handwriting, began to write.
Look, I love you. Alright? I really do.
I'm so sorry if I ever made it seem otherwise,
because it's not true. Everyday, all I think
about is your smile, your face, your laughter
and your bouts of creativity that make even
the rainiest of days seem beautiful.
I'm sorry. For everything. For squirting you
with my water gun. For throwing snowballs
at you. For being an arrogant, self-centered
bastard during those primitive teen years.
For trying to include you in every scheme to
kill my uncle. For being a nuisance, and a pain
in the ass. For kissing that girl. I'm so sorry
(By the way, when I kissed her, I thought it
I love you.
There. I'd done it. I capped my pen and let loose a sigh of relief. I would just have to give this to her, and she could either forgive me or not. Whatever happened, happened.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN SHE'S LEAVING TODAY?!" I yelled at Lee, who cowered under my gaze.
"Calm yourself, Neji! She said something about not being able to take this anymore, and managed to book a ticket to leave today." he explained.
It was a week or so after the incident. Tenten was supposed to leave a week from now, but it just so happened that she'd decided to begin her vacation early.
It was the last day of school, and everyone was mingling around happily chatting away about summer plans. Meanwhile, I was shaking with ill concealed rage and disbelief. She had left already. She had left. After all the trouble, the worrying, and the jitters, she had left before I could give her the yearbook back.
I bit back a yell of rage and slumped onto the bench. "It's over." I muttered, letting the book fall to the ground. "I'm a failure."
Never in my life had I felt lower than this. The last day of school was supposed to be a happy occasion, one filled with determination and anticipation at making new summer memories. Now, I just felt like a loser. Lower than the lowest of the low.
My walk home at the end of the day was forlorn. Lee understood my position, kept quiet for the most part. We parted ways on the fork at the road, and I turned to enter my house.
I moped around for the most part of the evening, until my uncle finally noticed my unhappiness and made a comment. "Unrequited love?" he asked.
I looked up at him. "No. Well, sort of." I replied. He sighed, and nodded.
"I feel your pain. Did she leave you?"
"Yeah. Left today to go to Europe. Probably already on the plane, halfway there." I said, morosely. Just then, the phone rang. I picked it up.
"Hello?" I asked.
"Neji! It's Lee! Tenten's flight was delayed because of runway problems, and it's going to take off in about two hours from now! Hurry up and get here!" he yelled. I nearly dropped my phone at those words, and replied shakily.
"I'll be right there." I said, and put the receiver back down. Hiashi eyed me warily.
"When is she leaving?" he asked.
"In two hours from now." I replied, fretting. "I'll never get there in time."
"You should at least try." he replied.
"I don't have a car."
"I'll lend you one."
And that was how I managed to get stuck in rush hour traffic. I slammed my hand on the steering wheel. There was only an hour until Tenten left. The yearbook was safely stowed in the seat beside mine.
When traffic finally got moving, I only had fifteen minutes to get there. I ran through the airport like my ass was on fire, and skidded through the marble floors. I saw Tenten hugging her family and yelled, "TENTEN!"
She looked up, shocked, then narrowed her eyes. "What are you doing here?" she spat.
I held out her yearbook. "This is for you." I said, panting. She looked down at it, then at me, then carefully took the book from my hands.
"Thank you. I have something for you too." she replied, reaching into her carry-on and pulling out another copy of the yearbook. "Read it when you have time." she said.
I accepted it and smiled. "Well...have a good time this summer." I said politely.
"You too." she replied, then turned to leave. I watched her retreating back, heart thudding painfully. Then, she was gone.
I watched her plane take off from the window and smiled to myself. I could almost imagine her pulling it out of her backpack, and shaking her head at my message. I hoped that she didn't forget me while she was off learning about Faust.
Just as the sun began to set on the scene, I sat down on one of the chairs and opened the yearbook she had given me. My heart skipped as I read the message penned in light blue.
I love you. I do.
Despite all the fights,
all the laughter,
and the humiliation,
I'll never stop loving you.
So when I come back,
let's put all this kissing thing behind us,
Call me sometime.
With your money, long distance should be nothing, right?
I smiled. For her, anything.
A/N: Omg, this is so flipping long. It took me two days to write this, and I can't say I'm completely happy with it, but oh well. This is one of those oneshots, which like The Book, kind of spiraled out of control.
Originally, this was supposed to be a NaruHina oneshot, but I figured NejiTen fit the mood better. It was a good pairing that I hadn't written before, so I figured I might as well give it a shot.
I hope you enjoy it!
(1) - Hermann "Dora" Ratjen was a German who was forced to dress up as a woman in order to compete in the Olympics in the place of a woman. Look him up on Wikipedia.