Tenten thought it would only take time to be with Neji, but suddenly she helped him marrying someone else.
Stop the Wedding?
They exited the temple together.
The bride was beautiful. Even Tenten had to admit that. The way the bride walked down the aisle on heels, the way her kimono fitted her so well; her curves stood out in exactly the right way. Who knew she could be so womanly? The way the kimono-dress' colors complimented her skin, hair, and eye colors. Her wild hair put up, tamed by the hairdresser. Her eyes surrounded by little make up; her lashes were already thick and dark, there wasn't much make up needed. She was perfect. No wonder Neji accepted to marry her.
Every one in the rows turned to look at her. Women thought she would be a good wife for the future leader of the Hyuuga clan. Men were disappointed that she was to be married soon. Girls wanted to become like her. Boys thumbed up their noses at her and looked away, like they always did when they saw something they liked but didn't want anybody to know that.
And Neji… Walking next to her, Neji couldn't look at her. What did he think? What did he feel? Was she too beautiful to look at? Was he afraid he would blush if he did? He too looked great, but then again, he was always handsome.
Tenten was about to lose him forever.
They could still be friends, sure. She had never told him about her feelings for him, so it wouldn't be fair to treat him any different. For her it would be difficult. To know that the love of her life was taken by another, that she could never have him. He'd be happy with the other, he'd even have children with her, and he'd never know that Tenten wanted to take that chance of his happiness away. Oh yes, he had noticed his team mate was sadder than before, and perhaps angrier, but she would not take this away from him. She would not tell him, she would not make him feel responsible or guilty for her sadness.
He had tried to comfort her. He had tried to find the reason for her sadness, and take it away, like the good friend he was. But she wouldn't tell him. It was her secret, she'd keep it to herself. Her unwillingness to tell could drive a wedge between them. Their bond would weaken, and they would slowly drift apart, from friends to mere colleagues. She would fight to not let that happen. How could she help him become happy if they weren't friends?
Lee and Gai probably knew. For all their inability to see people's reaction to themselves, they were very good judges of character and feelings when they themselves weren't involved. They would try to mend the friendship between their friends, and Tenten would let them help her, but she wouldn't let them tell him about her feelings.
They were almost with Tenten, who was standing near the priest. The bride walked a little behind Neji. She saw Tenten, and smiled. Not the smile of a victor showing the loser that she was so great. No, it was a genuine smile, a peace offering. It said 'We're both close to him. Despite our differences, let's be nice to each other for his sake.'
Neji was stealing glances at his bride. She shifted her gaze to him, and the moment their eyes locked, they smiled. Well, Tenten could only see her smiling, but he probably returned the gesture. He turned around to face the priest. She stepped forward to stand next to him. They looked good together, everybody had to agree with that, and Tenten would lose him in only a few moments.
"Tenten, it's OK."
Neji had seen her being nervous. He had seen her clenching and unclenching her hands. He knew her so well. He tried to make her relax with his soft-spoken assurance.
The priest was young, small, bald and had a mild voice. He was the center of attention though; he didn't need to speak up. "Before I'll bind them for life, I want to know; Does anyone disagree with this uniting?"
Tenten didn't dare to look at Neji. Instead she watched the guests. She saw Neji's large family, she saw the bride's small family, she saw the rest of their generation of Konoha shinobi, she saw all the people the bride and groom were close to. She saw Gai and Lee looking at her sadly, and she lowered her eyes. She was defeated.
"Neji Hyuuga, do you take Temari no Sabaku as your wife?"
- Rewind -
The day began like any other random mission day. Team Gai waited outside of the mission room for team Yamato to receive their mission. Yamato's team got a mission to help rebuild a village that was half destroyed by a mud stream. Tenten heard Naruto complaining that that was not what his mass shadow clone technique was meant for. He wanted a more exciting mission. As usual, Sakura silenced him with her super strength.
Team Gai entered the mission room. Surprisingly, Gai didn't challenge Kakashi to one of their bizarre contests. "Kakashi! You're blessed with a team with young spirits and love!" He was talking about Sakura's strength and Naruto's energy, even though technically they weren't Kakashi's teammates anymore. He had another job now.
Kakashi merely looked up from his book for a moment. He didn't need to, he was well aware of his surroundings. Not to mention that Gai was rather loud. Kakashi couldn't have not noticed him even if he was sleeping. He just wanted to acknowledge their sensei. "Yo." Nothing strange there, although Naruto looked a shade redder than normal. Sakura noticed too and quickly released him from her hold. His normal color returned.
"But they're not as great as my team!" Gai's confidence was heartwarming, but also a little over the top. Lee beamed. Sai still watched the other team, wondering about their behavior. Yamato ushered his team out and greeted Tenten with a smile. She smiled back, it seemed they were the only normal people here. Tenten sighed, and looked at her other 'normal' teammate who usually shared her opinion about Gai's statements. Neji was awfully quiet. From his expression, his thoughts must be miles from here. She grabbed his sleeve and pulled him with her to the front, to hear about their mission.
Their task was to escort a man of about 55 years to his hometown. It was a simple C-ranked survival mission through some uninhabited land. The next few days would be quiet, battle-wise spoken. Before they left, Kakashi looked sympathetically at Neji.
An hour later on a path in the woods, Gai, Lee and their protégé walked in the front. Neji and Tenten were behind them. Tenten liked Neji's presence, but today something was off. All morning he was very silent. Normally the exclamations of Gai and Lee would occasionally draw a reaction out of him, but he completely ignored them. She tried to start a conversation, but she didn't get anything more than short answers. His thoughts were not here, and he appeared unhappier than normal.
Lee caught on as well. He came walking with them in the back, while Gai continued his conversation with the man. "Neji, your thoughts are not on the mission. Tell us what's bothering you, so we can tackle your problem as a team."
When Tenten had asked, Neji had brushed it off; his thoughts were still somewhere else. But Lee's direct and clear question brought Neji back to the present. She saw him wondering whether he should tell them. He was not the kind of person who liked to share his problems with his friends, even if they could help him. He knew he could trust his team, but he saw it as a weakness that he allowed problems to sneak up on him, and that he couldn't solve them all by himself.
Although Tenten too preferred to be independent, the thing that made humans so successful was their ability to work together and so accomplish more than the sum of each of their independent successes. If friendship and fun were set aside, teamwork was still a good strategy.
"Yesterday my uncle needed to talk to me." So he decided to talk. "He said I …" No, he was still doubting. "… I had to marry."
"Neji! That's great! You'll experience one of the greater things of youth, no, of your whole life." Lee completely missed the point, and happily brought the news to Gai. Neji must have already regretted his decision to tell. No, he didn't. He looked relieved that he didn't have to carry this load by himself anymore, that he had others who could help him.
Gai was equally as enthusiastic as Lee, and both returned to hug him. This awakened Neji completely, as he had to dodge their hugging attempts. "I don't need your hugs!"
"Oh Neji, let us express our joyous feelings!" Lee almost cried. Neji was no match against both Gai and Lee when they worked together and he didn't want to hurt them physically, so soon he was embraced by both of them. He glared. His face turned a few shades redder. He crossed his arms. His expression clearly stated that Tenten wasn't allowed to tell anyone of this, ever. She chuckled and watched. The man looked on and had no idea what to think of this. He must have caught on to Gai and Lee's outgoing nature, but this was more than he expected. Gai and Lee released Neji.
"Tenten, don't you want to congratulate him?"
Neji was surprised by Lee's question. His reaction made her hesitate. "Erm…"
"Lee, don't you see? Our teammate isn't happy with the prospect." Gai saved her from answering. Or did he know? Did he know about her feelings for Neji? His next words could make her sink into the floor from embarrassment, depending on whether he'd reveal it. "Neji, who is the lucky lady?"
"I don't know yet."
"Hmm," he thought out loud, "that's no reason to be nervous. Any marriage is a happy occasion." Sensitive as always to other's feelings when he himself wasn't involved, Gai saved them. "Let's go, we still have a long way to go. Lee, we protect the front."
Lee and Gai guarded their protégé at his sides, and walked in the front, leaving Neji and Tenten once again alone in the back. Now they were both silent. The realization of Neji's revelation slowly caught up with her. He was going to marry. They would never be together. She had wasted her chance of asking him out by waiting, thinking they would slowly grow together and it would become easier with time to ask him. But now his clan interfered.
She stole a glance at him. He appeared pensive, like this morning. How could she worry about herself? He was the one whose future was determined by others. She was still free to marry anyone she wanted. He had it worse than her.
If they would help him, like Lee said, than they should know more about his situation. "What did he tell you? Why do you have to marry?"
Lee was talking the man's ears off his head, but they both suspected that Gai was listening in. Neji answered anyway. "My uncle said he proposed to the clan council to make me his successor. They agreed."
Tenten knew of his dream to not be ruled by his clan, to decide about himself. Becoming the clan leader would accomplish that. This would be great news, but …. She nodded to urge him to continue.
"The councils of Suna and Konoha want two marriages between shinobi from the different villages. It would be an exchange, a Suna kunoichi moves to Konoha, and a Konoha kunoichi to Suna." Tenten remained silent. She had a hunch what he would say next. "The clan council wanted our clan to be part of such an important political move, and offered to deliver one of the … grooms." He didn't like that word. And how arrogant; offering to accept an extra clan member, but not willing to send one to Suna. Typical Hyuuga council style.
"I'm one of the few who is old enough and isn't married or engaged, and I'll be the next clan leader. This makes me important enough to not insult Suna by Konoha's groom choice." He paused. "Konoha's council already accepted." Meaning, it was official and he couldn't back down. "I was told after the decisions were made." More Hyuuga council cowardice!
"What places have you traveled to?" Gai suddenly said loudly to the probably already deaf man. He really had listened in.
As predicted, the mission was quiet. Neji was often less aware of his surroundings, and Tenten suspected the Hokage gave them this mission to give Neji some time to think. It was thoughtful of Kakashi to help him. He was not as aloof as he tried to make everybody think.
Their protégé turned out to be a cook. He had traveled many countries, to learn about new foods, herbs and recipes. When he would return home, he would write a recipe book, a food guide for travelers, and a book about all of his travels.
"So that would make you a writer too," she told him.
He laughed. "I suppose you're right."
He was friendly and nice to talk to. He had a lot of stories to tell, and was very interested in their life as a shinobi. "This is the first time I've hired shinobi to protect me, the other roads were safe or I've traveled with a caravan. I've heard stories about shinobi, but I've never talked to one." So Lee, Gai, and Tenten told him about their job and training. He even asked them whether he could write about them in his book. Lee and Gai were ecstatic, and Neji and Tenten gave him permission too, as long as he didn't write too personal things. He would send them a copy of the draft version, so they could still ask that he had to erase the parts about them. She must admit that she was a little excited about it as well. As a thanks, he made his protectors some delicious meals.
During the second night, Tenten awoke to some sound. Neji was on guard duty, and sat near the glowing remains of the fire, a little way off from where Gai, Lee and she were sleeping. The cook crawled out of his sleeping bag, and went to the fire. She knew he was looking for a midnight snack, yesterday night he did the same during her shift.
He found something in his bag, sat himself near the fire and began eating. "I've heard you're betrothed without you knowing?"
She heard some rustling. Neji probably changed his position. She wondered whether she should stop listening in on them. She still looked like she was asleep. They wouldn't notice, but it was unfair.
"My wife was selected by my parents. I didn't know her, and we've met only a few times before the wedding." He paused to see whether he had still got Neji's attention. Apparently, he did. "At first it was awkward, to suddenly share my life with someone I barely knew. But with time, I learned to know her, and I learned to love her."
He took a bite from his bread, chewed it and swallowed. "It can end good, you just have to try to make it work."
That was true, Neji might actually like her. He hadn't met her yet, so for all he knew she could be great. She might make Tenten pale in comparison. The strange feeling she had all day in her stomach finally grew to its full size. Panic overwhelmed her, and she almost started trembling uncontrollably. Thanks to her training, she was able to calm down physically, but the nasty feeling didn't subside. She had to get Neji back. Scratch that, she had to regain control over her feelings. She could try as much as she wanted, but there were always factors she would have nothing to say about. This thought only made her feeling of being powerless worse.
"Or is there already someone else?"
Neji didn't answer, and Tenten was sure she couldn't sleep anymore this night. Neji was deep in thought, and hadn't noticed that she was awake. Neither had the cook. The man finished his bread silently and went to sleep.
The few days after Team Gai had returned from the mission, they trained together every morning. Neji was angry, and he expressed it in his fighting. Tenten's panic feeling had somewhat subsided, but it was still continuously present in the background. She tried to fight it out with her attacks. Their energetic fighting made Lee believe their training paid off. Gai was send on a mission.
Today the two were extra fierce. Today he would meet his fiancé.
They didn't stop until they were completely exhausted. The only thing able to stop them from thinking about the future wedding, was extensively training their bodies. To make their training demand all of their attention, so that they would forget about everything else. Spent and high on the adrenalin rush, the three relaxed for a while. They drank water, brushed off sweat, or did some stretching.
"I have to go. See you tomorrow." Neji was the first to return home, he had to look neatly before he would meet her. He tried to turn away, but Tenten grabbed his left hand and stopped him from leaving. He looked at her questionably.
Lee stepped up to him, grabbed his free arm and put his hand on Neji's right shoulder. "Good luck."
Tenten nodded, meaning she wished him the same.
Neji smiled. He nodded once and they let him go. Before he disappeared from their sight, he turned to look at them once more. Lee gave him the thumbs up, and Tenten smiled. Neji turned around again and left.
She was silent for a while, thinking what the rest of his day would look like. First, he would take a shower, then he would have to change into some official clothes. She wondered what clothes they were. Would he get pointers from his uncle about how to behave? She tried to ignore the sadness in her stomach.
"Tenten, we have to be sure his future wife is suitable for him." Lee broke her train of thought.
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"As his friends, we have to protect him from being hurt. We have to make certain his betrothed will make him happy."
She remembered Lee's promise that as Neji's friends, they could tackle his problem as a team. "Lee, it's not nice to spy."
"Tenten, I know you want to have a happy teammate."
He meant he knew she was curious too, but she wanted to prevent Neji's humiliation if they were discovered spying. "Do you have a plan? We are talking about the Hyuuga grounds, inhabited by Hyuuga's, with the Byakugan." She pointed to her eyes. "We can't spy on them unnoticed."
Lee smiled brightly, like he held an important piece of information. "She's from Suna, she'll arrive today. All we have to do is to spy on the gate."
Sometimes she forgot how brilliant Lee could be.
They immediately bought lunch and went to the gate facing Suna. They spent their time eating and talking about what she would be like. Tenten thought she would be someone of stature. Suna wouldn't want to insult Konoha like Konoha wouldn't want to insult Suna. Lee thought she'd be strong. After all, she was a kunoichi.
Early in the afternoon the Suna delegation arrived. They saw Kankuro and Temari. Temari often negotiated for Suna in Konoha, like for the Chuunin exams. Kankuro was known here as well. Both were jounin, and well able to protect the bride. Two girls followed them. One was obviously civilian, the other was obviously shinobi.
"Matsuri," Lee said. "He's going to marry Matsuri. I didn't know she was a high-ranked Suna shinobi."
That must be the name of the shinobi girl. Matsuri wasn't very beautiful, but she wasn't ugly either. She didn't look like a girly girl, who would only annoy Neji. Tenten remembered what the cook said that night. 'It can end good, you just have to try to make it work.' Matsuri looked like their marriage could work. To suppress her panic feeling Tenten focused on the civilian girl. Nothing special about her. She was probably here to assist in the wedding preparations.
Before the two left to assist a farmer for a D-rank mission, Lee told Tenten all he knew about Matsuri.
"I'll have to marry Temari." Neji said out of the blue during the training session of the next day. He didn't look happy. He couldn't train with his teammates, he had other duties today. He barely found time in his busy schedule to visit them.
Lee and Tenten were shocked. When watching the Suna delegation, they completely overlooked the obvious. Temari was from an important Suna family, and she was a jounin. Lee's doubts were correct. Matsuri had no family, and marrying her off for this deal would insult Konoha's council. But with Temari, the daughter of the 4th Kazekage and the sister of the 5th, the council was flattered.
Lee was the first to regain his sense to say something. "So she is indeed a strong flower of youth."
Neji sweat-dropped and looked annoyed at Tenten for support. She just gave him the usual smile and shoulder shrug, the ones she often used after declarations like that.
"I can't join our team on most missions and training sessions for the next three months." Neji told them. "I have to do other things."
The next day Gai returned from his mission. He wasn't very exited about Temari being the bride, but he wasn't disappointed either. "They could have gotten much worse."
A day later the three left on another mission. They were to help Yamato's team with rebuilding the village, because there was more mud than expected. They arrived within 2 days. It was good to see them again.
Naruto was very excited about the news. "He will be the first of the Konoha 12 to marry!"
Sakura sighed. She understood that Temari and Neji would not choose each other of their own free will.
"Because he is chosen, does that mean he doesn't want to marry her?" Sai asked. He still had difficulties to make choices based on emotions and to not see everything as a mission. Sai's words made Tenten realize, that Neji could indeed see this marriage as a mission. That was not a good thing.
It was strange to do a mission without Neji. Although Gai was often send on different missions from them, the three younger ones were almost always assigned together. They worked well together. They knew what to expect from each other, when someone would dodge to what side, when who would attack from what side, what abilities they had. Whenever they faced a group of opponents, they didn't need to communicate in words who would do what.
Tenten missed Neji's presence. She missed the warmth he radiated when he was nearby. She missed his reactions to Gai and Lee's antics. She missed his way of caring for them. She missed everything that made him being him.
Gai, Lee and Naruto spurred on each other so much, and started so many challenges among each other, that the mission was done within a week. Once again she had to wonder whether Kakashi was less aloof than was thought, and he tactily selected their team, not another. Or he just liked his previous team and wanted to assign Team Gai because the teams knew each other so well.
On the way back, the three challenged each other again and again, and were soon in the front of the group. Yamato, Sakura and Sai walked in the back. Tenten was in the middle, alone, her thoughts with Neji.
Sakura sped up and caught up with her. "How do you feel about Neji's wedding?"
So she had caught on to Tenten's feelings for him. "I don't know. He'll be the future clan leader … He wants that."
"But …," Sakura urged. With no other kunoichi on either team, the teams working together allowed them to talk to another kunoichi. It could be a relief to be able to talk to someone who could more easily relate to them. Normally, Neji understood Tenten well, but he was unavailable.
"He doesn't want the clan to rule his life." Tenten still hadn't said what she felt about him, but there was no fooling Sakura.
"How do you feel about losing him?"
The three in the front were still acting like children, the two in the back were busy with their own tasks. None of them would hear her. "I … I don't want to. But there's nothing I can do."
Sakura understood. If Tenten would tell Neji about her feelings, he'd only feel more trapped, and feel more guilt because of her pain. If he'd return her feelings, he would feel even more miserable to know she felt the same and that they couldn't be together. It was better to not let him know.
He asked her to be his witness of the wedding. The two witnesses would stand in the front, next to the priest. They would see the pair approaching, and they would hand over the rings. The witnesses would help organizing the wedding. They were the ones who made sure that the day would go as planned. They also had to sign the official documents, making the wedding legal. A witness was deeply trusted by the one who asked them. It was a big honor to be asked, and she accepted.
If not being able to be with Neji, then at least she could spend more time with him this way.
Tenten knew that Neji trusted Gai and Lee as much as he trusted her. "Why me?"
"I want someone outside my family; I already have to deal enough with them during this whole affair." Neji knew she knew that, so he continued. "Gai and Lee are too flamboyant; they would completely ruin the ceremony with their behavior." Neji smirked, and Tenten snickered at that. Just imagine; a wedding with Gai or Lee as witnesses. Who would actually want that?
Temari asked Gaara to be her witness.
Gaara, the Kazekage. Temari and Kankuro forced him to take a vacation, to relax for some time, to temporarily dump his duties and responsibilities on some unexpecting underlings and escape the drone of his everyday life.
Two and a half months before the wedding, Gaara and two other Suna shinobi arrived. The first meeting with Gaara, Temari and Neji was a little awkward. Tenten didn't know the Suna siblings very well, and now one of them was her 'rival'. For Neji's sake, she would try her best to be nice to them.
The first thing to do was setting up a list with people who would be asked to be present. It was a lot of work, many important figures had to be invited, even though many wouldn't show up. Nonetheless, if they weren't invited, they'd be insulted which could cause all kind of difficulties for the families of the couple. Gaara helped Temari with the Suna side of the guests, Hiashi helped Neji with the Hyuuga side. Neji paid attention; he had to know everyone of them for when he'd become clan leader.
Between the throwing around of names all Tenten could do was nod and write them down. When they were discussing about another one, Tenten looked at Temari. Temari seemed bored. She was a little bit of a political figure too, but only between Suna and Konoha. She didn't appear happy with this arrangement either. Tenten completely forgot that she could be forced into this as well. Temari saw Tenten looking, and smiled a genuine smile. She tried to encourage her to not be overwhelmed by all those names.
Tenten returned the smile, but inwardly she didn't know how to deal with this. It was so much easier to hate your 'rival' when they were mean, but Temari tried to be friendly.
Gaara was much nicer than Tenten expected. He was silent, but he always radiated a friendly feeling, like he found you and everyone else a good being, that he liked that you existed, and that it was his task to protect and help you and everyone else and that you didn't had to worry because he was powerful enough to do so.
The two witnesses were picking up the invitations from the printer. It was strange to do such a task together with the Kazekage. He was carrying a bag full with paper not related to his job. She couldn't imagine him doing that in Suna. Surely he had people wanting to do that for him?
That afternoon was filled with typing addresses, sticking them on envelopes, folding the invitations and putting them in said envelopes. Gaara must have picked up on her uneasiness with him, because he tried to make her feel less tense. Although Tenten tried to be nice too, the conversations just died. It was a shame, because they had to work together a lot for the wedding. After many failed attempts, he used his triumph card.
"You like Neji." He suddenly stated.
He looked at her for a moment and must have seen her surprise. He had noticed it so soon, was she that obvious? She remained silent.
"Don't worry, I won't tell."
"I was set up by my sister." Although his voice was still monotone, there was more feeling in it now the barrier between them crumbled, and they were relieved that their cooperation might work. "She asked me to be her witness because she hopes that I would fall for you. The other marriage of the treaty hasn't been decided on." Gaara looked at her. "But I wouldn't stand a chance, would I?" He smiled a little. "I think she wants revenge for me not able to prevent her being stuck in this."
Tenten actually laughed. She really laughed, not just a silent smile or a soft snicker, but a roaring laugh, even if it did last only for a few moments. He made her laugh, someone else than Neji, for the first time she had heard the bad news. She laughed away the tension of the past weeks. Who knew the Kazekage could so easily crawl behind the walls that protected her heart? She relaxed, tension almost gone, maybe life wasn't so bad with Neji marrying Temari. Maybe she could find someone too, and Neji and she could be real close friends again. She smiled, a real happy smile.
The Kazekage smirked. Wait, did he just manipulate her?
Gaara and Tenten often had to work together. He was secretly funnier and more manipulative than anyone who didn't know him well would think. You had to look for it though, he had an image to keep up. It was fun to witness him manipulating people just to get a discount or to make people work faster, and then to see him winking or smiling to her, like they were sharing a secret. Konoha's shopkeepers didn't stand a chance against his manipulation. If she didn't know he knew about her liking Neji, she'd think he was trying to seduce her. "You've got girls hanging all over you in Suna, don't you?"
He merely smirked and looked up at the baker returning to the front of the shop. One of the nicer things to arrange was the wedding cake. It should be large, delicious, and look impressive. They got a book with pictures what the baker had made in the past, and ate leftover pieces of cake and marzipan while fantasizing about the cake. When it was dinnertime, both were too full to even think about food.
The witnesses arranged a temple and a priest for the ceremony and reception. They arranged a hall nearby for the dinner and afterparty. They hired cooks, servants, musicians, a photographer and people to help decorating. They arranged food for lunch, appetizers and dinner. They booked rooms for guests from outside of Konoha.
The couple would pick the rings, arrange documents that needed to be signed, and organize the honeymoon, if they would go on a honeymoon. Neji on a honeymoon with Temari… They would be alone, they would even have sex. Tenten didn't want to think about that.
The civilian Suna girl turned out to be the designer of Temari's kimono-dress. The Suna shinobi helped at the Academy or on missions benefiting both villages. The shinobi were Temari's team in Suna. She wanted her team here in Konoha to support her in case she needed it.
Tenten invited Lee to help her picking flowers and other decorations, but she let Ino pick the bouquet. Gaara was in a meeting with Kakashi and the Konoha Council. He couldn't escape all of his Kazekage-duties.
"This hard work is good for you. You're happier." Lee observed.
Tenten realized that he was right. Lee and Gai often assisted other teams on their missions, since both Neji and she were busy with other things. Occasionally Tenten could join them, but only on short missions. Organizing a wedding took a lot of time and most of her thoughts. It was a good thing she got paid for it. Gaara's antics made her happier too, but …
"I haven't forgotten about Neji. I know he doesn't like to be married off this way." Does he? She haven't seen him much after deciding who would be invited. She remembered she accepted to be his witness, so she could spend more time with him. But in reality, he was often gone on trips with Temari. When he was here in Konoha, Tenten only occasionally saw a glimpse of him or passed him by saying nothing more than 'Hi!'. She haven't spoken to him and she haven't looked for him either. For all she knew, he and Temari were growing close to each other and he didn't mind marrying Temari anymore. Why wasn't she so sad anymore? Was the wedding planning that much fun? Or was it just Gaara?
Lee smiled knowingly and continued looking for good flower combinations. Was she really that obvious?
Hinata saw her and told her where to find Neji. Tenten heard his gentle voice before she was there. When she turned around the corner, she saw him explaining a clan technique to a young clan member. He paused for a second in his sentence and she knew he had noticed her. He didn't mind her seeing it, it wasn't like she could learn the technique anyway. Tenten leaned against the wall, seeing him finishing his explanation, demonstrating it, and correcting the child when it was his turn. She enjoyed watching him. If he wanted to, Neji could be good with children. He gave the boy a few pointers for practice, and then walked over to her.
"Thanks for waiting."
As a reply, she just grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the exit, smiling. "Come on, don't let him waiting."
He didn't seem to mind. He didn't mind she hadn't really talked to him lately. Does that mean he liked Temari now? Once outside the Hyuuga grounds, Tenten couldn't hold in her curiosity. "How is the wedding going?"
"Shouldn't I be asking you?" he said with a serious face but mischievous eyes.
He was joking, he was definitely in a good mood. Another reason for her to worry. She tried again. "What have you been doing since our last mission together?"
He became more serious. "Temari and I have visited many lords and clan leaders in the Fire Country." They had all met Temari and knew she was his future wife. It was really happening. There was no way back. Neji slowly drifted out of her reach. "It's all for my future task as clan leader."
"The organizing goes well. We had a few drawbacks, but everything will be ready in time." Tenten answered his question.
Both their moods dropped. They silently and deep in thoughts reached the tailor.
If they were late, the tailor didn't show his annoyance. Perhaps that was a piece of service towards his costumers. He confirmed their appointment and brought out several pieces of cloth. He held them next to Neji's face or against his neck. He discussed with them what they wanted. They didn't know, so the tailor just proposed several of his ideas. Finally the tailor gave him some kimono's to try on. They chose a design, texture and color combination.
He wanted to take up Neji's measurements, and was a little surprised that neither Neji nor Tenten showed even a little bit of embarrassment when he had to take off his outer layer of clothing, leaving him in underwear. "So you're his fiancé? You could let us design a dress too."
Neji suddenly looked a bit angry, so she explained. "We are teammates. If he gets wounded, we take care of his wounds."
"Ah, you're shinobi." He pulled Neji's arms horizontal and started measuring. "You sure could have fooled me. You're so well tuned in on each other that I thought you would marry each other."
Neji and Tenten looked at each other. He looked surprised, and something else she couldn't decipher.
"There you have it again. You need little words to understand each other." He measured Neji's torso.
"Teammates need to be able to communicate easily." Neji explained for her.
"And you can read each others thoughts as well." The tailor wrote down the final measurements. "I don't know about being a shinobi, I guess you're right, but your communication is as good as any couple knowing each other through and through." He watched the two shinobi and winked. "I know, I see them regularly."
This made her blush, and she saw Neji turning a little redder too. He quickly turned around to put his clothes back on.
It was a week before the wedding when she was kidnapped. Lee and Gai ambushed Tenten when she was unsuspectingly walking through Konoha during lunchtime. They each grabbed an arm and pulled her into a barbecue restaurant. Shikamaru, Chouji and Ino were already there, and soon the other teams of the Konoha 12 arrived. Naruto, Sakura and Sai were even able to drag Kakashi here. Not that he wouldn't be here if he really didn't want to. He must be curious, or just trying to escape the paperwork.
Only Neji wasn't present. He wasn't visiting a lord or clan leader, but he was probably busy. When he would be married and later even become clan leader, he would be present at even less of such gatherings.
Yamato stood next to the table where the rest of them were seated. "Why are we here?" He asked exactly what Tenten wanted to know.
Naruto grinned. "We've organized Neji's bachelor party!" He underlined his revelation with a hit of his hand on the table.
"That explains your mission requests" Kakashi mumbled. "I found it very strange when you, of all people, asked for D-rank missions."
"I didn't even know that you were planning something." Tenten told them. She didn't even realize something was off.
"We thought you would be busy enough with arranging Neji's wedding, so we decided to tell you later." Ino explained.
"What do you think of our idea, Tenten?" Lee asked while Gai smiled. Judging by the look on their faces, they had started all of this.
Of course, leave it to them to think of a party for the stoic Neji. She clearly underestimated their organization skills. "It's very thoughtful." She leaned forward on the table. Yamato leaned in on the group. "What have you planned?"
The party was that same night, and all that was left to do was to kidnap Neji. That was their team's job. Gai and Lee would be able to restrain him if Tenten couldn't talk him into following them. Hinata helped them to navigate on the Hyuuga grounds, and could find him with her Byakugan. She knew about Neji's schedule. Tonight, he had nothing planned.
The few Hyuuga's the group encountered looked strangely at them. The four were clearly sneaking, but did such a bad job at it that it couldn't be called sneaking at all. On top of that, the 'intruders' all wore Konoha forehead protectors; they should be better at sneaking. When the passing Hyuuga saw Hinata accompanying the group, they let the four pass, clearly wondering what was going on.
Neji was in the Hyuuga library reading some clan scrolls. He was really determined and focused on becoming clan leader. Tenten didn't expect him wanting it that much. Perhaps he was just avoiding to think about his wedding? She felt a flutter of hope.
Tenten stood before the door and looked at her partners in crime peeking from their hiding place around a corner.
"Don't worry," Hinata said, "he doesn't use the Byakugan to look who's behind the door."
Tenten didn't mind the reassurance, but what she really wanted was some inspiration. She hadn't thought about anything to lure Neji to the pub. Lee got impatient and gave Hinata a soft push towards the door. Hinata stood next to Tenten, hesitated a moment and then she knocked. Tenten was a little nervous, she still had no inspiration.
"Yes?" Neji said.
Hinata looked at Tenten, but Tenten's brain always stopped working when she desperately needed an idea.
"Come in." Neji wondered what was going on and they heard him setting his scrolls aside.
Before he could walk over to the door, Hinata answered. "Erm, Tenten is here to see you." She ran back towards Gai and Lee, and Tenten opened the door; Neji did say 'come in'.
He was surprised to see her nervous. "Is something wrong?" She closed the door to get some more time. It wasn't any use, no idea came to her. Neji got up and stood in front of her. "Tenten, what's wrong?"
It was too much. His earnest question and worry, having his full attention; it brought out all the feelings and thoughts she had hidden the past three months. She would never be with him. She wouldn't be able to make him as happy as she could by being just a friend. She would miss many small and big things in his life. He would never take her on a date, or try to impress her or try to romance her. She wouldn't be such a big part of his life as she wanted. He would never kiss her.
She wanted to posses him. She wanted him to possess her.
"Tenten?" Neji was really worried. She hadn't said a word since she had arrived. He wanted to comfort her, but he didn't know how to do that. It was so sweet, she wanted to jump in his arms and hug him. But she couldn't do that, she couldn't make him feel responsible for her pain and make his life harder than it already was.
"It's nothing for you to worry about."
Neji didn't believe her. Her voice sounded like she was about to cry, which she probably was. He didn't say anything though. He didn't push the subject that made her so uneasy. That was sweet too. "If there's something I can do, then tell me."
Tenten shook her head. "Never mind." Focus thoughts on something else, focus on the party. "I wanted to show you something." She didn't grab his sleeve before she walked towards the door. "Follow me."
He raised his eyebrows as in a question, but he trusted her and followed. "What is it?" He opened the door for her.
That gesture made her smile. He smiled in return, for cheering her up a bit. "It's a surprise," she said. Tenten turned the corner with the others around it and saw Hinata with an activated Byakugan. She looked sadly at Tenten. Did Hinata know about her feelings too? Tenten sighed.
Hinata signaled to Gai and Lee, and when Neji turned around the corner, his surprise of finding the others there delayed his reaction. Gai and Lee had him secured, bound and silenced in no time. Why did they do that? It wasn't necessary. He followed her. Neji's words came out mumbled through the cloth over his mouth, but he obviously wanted an explanation.
"Sorry, Neji," Hinata apologized, "but it's a surprise."
Gai threw him over his shoulder and carried him. Neji struggled a few times, but it was no use. Once outside the few Hyuuga's who saw the four plus prisoner looked again strangely at them, but Hinata silently explained about the bachelor party. It turned out that most of the Hyuuga's liked that idea, and they left the Hyuuga grounds without any problems. Tenten looked at Neji. He looked very angry with her, more so than at Lee or Hinata.
"Don't be mad at her, Neji. She only helped us." Lee tried to help his team mate, but he only made it worse.
Neji was angry with her because he thought she had fooled him. She misused his trust. He thought she acted she was sad, just to get him to follow her. Maybe it was better that way. Now she didn't have to explain her sadness anymore. But it didn't make her sadness disappear.
Once on the public streets of Konoha the rest of their generation of shinobi, Kakashi, and Yamato joined them. Tenten didn't expect this. Kakashi walked next to Gai, hands in his pockets. "Gai, what do you have here?"
"My eternal rival, don't you see? It's Neji, my great student!"
Although it was night, it was Saturday night and people walked the streets to go to a pub, club, or a food stand. Some people looked up at Gai's loud exclamation.
Kakashi smiled innocently. "Really? Then why do you carry him? Isn't he able to walk by himself?"
"You're acting so cool, pretending to not know what's going on." Gai started walking more vigorously. "This is Neji Hyuuga! He's my student, and next week he'll go through the youthful act of marrying!" He explained loudly. He patted Neji on his back, to show his approval for his marriage.
More people looked up. Kakashi smirked, for as much as Tenten could see through his mask. He asked the questions on purpose, didn't he? Neji caught on as well. He struggled again, but their sensei was strong and his limbs were not bound by regular rope.
"Neji, don't you want to go to your bachelor party?" Gai couldn't believe that was possible.
His words attracted more curious looks. Some bystanders not knowing Gai followed the troupe out of curiosity. Some of them who did know Gai followed him because they knew him; It might become humiliating to someone, which is worth to watch. Sakura, Kiba, Hinata and Sai told them that if they'd follow, they could get a free drink at the pub where they were going. This convinced more people to follow.
"Gai, why have you bound his hands?" Ino pretended to not know, while Tenten could clearly see they had planned all of this. Tenten looked at the others. Everybody was in on it, only her team was left in the dark. They must have thought Neji's team mates wouldn't allow this to happen to him. They must have had another meeting this afternoon. Hinata was in on the plan too, so she could signal to Gai and Lee to capture Neji. Poor Neji, he hated this. He must be embarrassed, although his long hair did a good job of hiding his face.
"Although he is my great student, he didn't want to join his party! No student of mine is allowed to skip a party dedicated to him or her! This is his last week as a free man! He should use this night as much as he can and spend it with his friends and companions! "
Shino actually distanced himself a bit from Gai and his loud words, Shikamaru tattered behind the group with Chouji, uncaring about their sensei's words. About two dozens of people followed to the pub, with Kakashi and the others trying to elicit embarrassing statements about Neji. Gai happily gave them.
When they arrived at the pub, a group of about 3 dozen of people entered with them. Sakura and Sai went to the bar. The rest of the friends seated themselves in a booth reserved for them. Gai put Neji back on his feet, but kept his hands, feet and mouth bound. Gai faced the crowd and put a hand on Neji's shoulder. He was going to give a speech.
"Honored ladies and gentlemen! I'm happy you all chose to join his party!" Gai patted Neji's shoulder once. "This young man will be married in a week!"
Tenten's stomach clenched. Please, there's no need to remind her.
Sakura, Sai and some staff already spread drinks to everyone present. The people not knowing Neji didn't mind toasting on a stranger if they could get free alcohol.
"Tonight we'll celebrate the last week of the youthful life phase called bachelorhood. But, I also want to toast on his future life as a married man, that will hopefully bring new youth in this world!"
Neji's face flushed.
Gai took his glass and raised it. "To Neji!"
Everybody followed his example. Many visitors grinned or chuckled at Neji's embarrassment. "To Neji!"
People took a sip of their drinks and began talking amongst themselves. The barkeeper was happy they had brought so many costumers with them. The visitors' first drink was paid by the shinobi group, but likely most people would stick and buy more. Some people wanted to congratulate Neji, and Gai released him. Neji was angry, but his manners made him to friendly accept all the congratulations and not look like he wanted to kill a certain set of shinobi. Said shinobi had to smile, grin or chuckle at his predicament. Gai beamed with pride.
Finally the congratulations were over. Neji glared at his peers and sat himself among them. "You could just have asked me to come to the pub with you."
"It is an act of youthfulness to embarrass the soon-to-be-married." Gai boomed. "It is even more youthful if they don't let themselves be embarrassed by their friends."
The rest of the evening and night was a normal pub night. They talked, they drank, they laughed, they shared memories; their friendship was renewed. The barkeeper gave them a round of drinks on the house, since they had delivered him so many costumers.
After a few hours some of them left. The rest of them stayed till the bar closed, and the owner ushered them out. Some of them were drunk and needed to be escorted home. Lee had refrained himself from drinking alcohol, and offered to take Sakura to her home. Sakura wasn't completely drunk, but she was too far gone to coherently protest.
Neji wasn't completely sober either. Hinata left earlier, so Tenten was left to take him to his home. He was a little tipsy. He was rather silent and still well aware of his surroundings, thoughts and behavior. He just had a few balance problems. She took his arm and walked him home.
They didn't talk. She only guided him, still holding his arm. She liked being so close to him, and to hold him, even if it was just his arm. Her thoughts drifted to how this evening started. She had to clear the trouble that came between them. "I wasn't in on their plan to restrain you and carry you around like that."
He didn't look at her. "You tricked me into thinking something was wrong with you."
"That wasn't part of the plan. I didn't do that on purpose." She became a little sad again when thinking back. She held his arm tighter, like she was the one in need of support instead of him. They both needed each other's help now, in different ways.
They were quiet for a few moments. Neji was thinking. "So there really is something bothering you."
As an answer she laid her head on his shoulder. He was taller than her, but not too much. He had the perfect height for her to put her head on his shoulder. Neji looked at her and closed his eyes for a second. He knew, she thought. She really was obvious, wasn't she? He released his arm from her hold and held her by her waist. She did the same with him. They continued walking in silence, enjoying each other's presence.
Nobody should see them now. Nobody who knew that he would marry in a week should see him walk with her like that.
A few streets before the Hyuuga grounds he grabbed her shoulder and hugged her. She hugged him back. "I'm sorry." He sighed. "I can't get out of this. I've tried, but I can't."
He meant the wedding. "I know, I know." She knew he wouldn't want his clan to decide about his marriage. She knew he would try to get out of it. And now she knew he didn't like Temari as much as he liked her.
They stood there a little longer before she broke the hug. "You should go." She still held his hand.
"I should go." Neji squeezed her hand and released it. They looked each other in the eyes, and he looked down, breaking the contact. "I'll see you in a few days." He turned around and walked away, with little balance problems. The cool air must have sobered him a bit.
The next day, when Tenten saw Gaara, she realized she forgot all about him. She knew now for certain, she couldn't withstand Neji's charms. Gaara was right, he didn't stand a chance.
It was then and there that she decided Neji was the one best suited for her. Remembering yesterday's evening, she knew Neji preferred her to Temari. She had to get him back. Neji couldn't find a way, but perhaps she could. She had to. She would.
That week she spent thinking of a way for her and Neji to be together. She knew she didn't want to share him like that with anyone else, so no extra-marital affair. She knew Neji had looked for any legal way out of the marriage, either via clan law, Konoha law or the treaty with Suna. The treaty didn't specify who should marry, it only spoke of two marriages and an exchange of shinobi. It was his clan who chose him. She had no idea what the Hyuuga clan rules were, but she was sure Neji had looked into those. He hadn't found a way out. According to Konoha law, a marriage could be disbanded: when one of the two had died; when one of the two became a missing-nin; or when after 5 years no heir was born while an heir was needed for the family of one of the couple.
This left her with two options. Kill Temari or leave Konoha with Neji and become missing-nins. Neither was a good idea.
The subject of her thoughts stood in front of the mirror adjusting his clothes. Not because he doubted the way he looked, or because he was nervous, but because he didn't want to think that within an hour he would be married to someone who wasn't his choice.
She had helped him dress up, and sat in the windowsill looking up at him. "You look great." She didn't tell him that it would be fine and that there was no reason to worry. In the past 3 months she had never told him that Temari wasn't that bad, or that the marriage could work. She knew it could, but still she would want him for herself.
Neji looked at her, and saw her forced smile. He gave her one too. "The tailor did a good job."
Together they were alone in a room in the temple.
It was almost time for the ceremony to begin. Neither of them knew what to say. Tenten rose from her seat to take him to Temari and Gaara. She grabbed his hand to pull him with her, but he didn't follow her. She turned around and he enveloped her in a hug. Neji never hugged, but this was the second one in a week. She hugged him back, and she felt like she belonged there. He felt tense and desperate. She too felt desperate, but they lost some of their tension during the hug. He didn't want to let go. No matter how much she wanted to agree with him, it was not an option. She released the hug, but she still held his lower arms and looked up at him.
That wouldn't do. A sad face on his wedding day? As his witness she had to cheer him up. "You're still on my team, and if you quit because of clan business, I'll visit you. This is not the end."
She thought she had to settle for the extra-marital affair after all.
She saw the resignation on his face, and he tried to smile. Another forced smile, there were a lot of those today. His expression was good enough, so she pulled his arm to make him follow her.
Temari and Gaara were already waiting. Tenten looked at Temari, and Temari smiled. The smile didn't reach her eyes though. Perhaps she knew about Tenten's feelings for Neji? More people seem to know about them than she thought. It wasn't unlikely Temari had caught on as well. Tenten quickly let go of Neji's arm and glanced at Gaara. Gaara knew, but did he tell her? He might, to be honest with his sister, and so she knew what she was getting into. Tenten couldn't read his expression.
Gaara looked at Neji and then at Tenten. He laid a hand on Temari's shoulder and squeezed. "Good luck." Then he faced the other witness again. "Shall we go?"
Tenten sensed Neji's eyes on her. She enjoyed his presence. His being felt like a warmth next to her. She didn't want to go. She wanted to keep Neji. If she would leave now, he was forever lost to her. She felt the panic from her stomach creeping through her body.
"Tenten?" Gaara brought her out of her thoughts and stopped the panic trying to take over her body. She couldn't believe she was thinking about stopping this wedding and take Neji with her and leave Konoha immediately.
She looked up at Neji. She took his hands in hers, looked at them and squeezed them. It was her way of wishing him good luck, and in a way saying goodbye.
She turned around to follow Gaara, looking at the floor. She could feel the soon-to-be-married couple's eyes on her. Gaara took her hand trying to fill the space that was left by Neji. He knew it wouldn't work, but his gentle gesture didn't leave her completely empty.
Gaara walked her towards the door. Once outside, he let go of her hand but guided her towards the priest with his hand barely touching her back. The weather was good. The temperature was nice and not too high, with only the occasional breeze and some clouds drifting along the sky. The witnesses walked on the outside of the two groups waiting for the marriage to begin; The aisle in the middle was reserved for the couple. All guests were seated and talking amongst each other or looking at the two. Some children ran around. Maneuvering around the tables, chairs and running children they reached the priest. He greeted them with a soft voice. They checked for the rings.
Looking over the heads Tenten saw the exit of the temple. Of course she couldn't see the couple, they were hidden around the corner. But soon, they would be walking there. Soon, she would lose him. Gaara saw her looking. "Are you ready?"
He meant her feelings, but she wasn't able to do anything about them. "Yes, I haven't lost the ring." She showed him the box and managed to give him a small smile.
Apparently that was sufficient. Gaara nodded to the priest. The priest walked towards the altar, they followed a little behind him.
The crowd fell quiet. A few seconds later, Neji and Temari exited the temple together.
"Neji Hyuuga, do you take Temari no Sabaku as your wife?"
Neji looked at Tenten. She quickly looked away. He looked at her a little longer. She was his witness, she had to support him. She was his friend, she had to help him obtaining happiness, even if it wasn't with her. She returned her gaze to him, and nodded. It was barely noticeable, but he saw. He regained some of his strength and determination, the strength and determination she had seen so often during his fights and their spars. He didn't sigh, or even closed his eyes for a second. His strength returned with her nod. He looked at the priest and answered. "I do."
Temari released the breath she was holding. She had witnessed the exchange. The crowd didn't think much of the pause, but she was so nearby, she couldn't have missed it. Gaara smiled at Tenten, telling her she did the right thing. The priest must have noticed it as well, but he didn't show it. He had probably sealed many arranged marriages before.
"Temari no Sabaku, do you take Neji Hyuuga as your husband?"
What was it with this question anyway? This marriage was arranged, they couldn't get out of it even if they wanted. It was just show and tradition.
Temari hesitated too. For her it was a life-changing moment as well. She looked at the sky behind the priest. She looked at the clouds, the clouds that Shikamaru watched so often. Tenten knew that Temari liked Shikamaru more than Neji, but Temari too didn't have much choice. Temari gathered her courage, and answered. "Yes, I do."
At a sign from the priest, Gaara and Tenten handed over the rings to Temari and Neji. They put them on the other's hand.
"Then hereby I declare that you are married to each other."
The priest bowed and the couple bowed in return. They turned around to face the crowd, and bowed to them. The guests, Gaara, and Tenten bowed to the couple. The priest backed away, and the couple walked towards the reception area. They would drink saké, and then receive the congratulations and best wishes from the guests.
Tenten watched them go.
Gaara stood next to her, she hadn't noticed him arriving. He put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed, like he did with Temari right before the wedding. "It was the right choice."
She noticed she was tense, but she couldn't relax. "Then why do I feel so bad?" At the same time, she knew Gaara was right. She knew that stopping the wedding would cause all kind of trouble between the councils of their villages, and within each village. A small part of her was proud and relieved she didn't interfere and make things worse.
Unfortunately a big part of her felt terrible for having lost Neji forever as a lover. Or actually, for never having Neji as a lover.
"He's still your friend." Gaara tried to comfort her. "I have to go. Kazekage duties." He let go of her shoulder and left.
The guests had already gone to the reception area. Tenten found Lee and Gai there, and both tried to cheer her up. Their antics and attempts actually helped. The three found the others of the bachelor-party-goers minus Hinata. She had to congratulate Neji with her family, but soon she joined them too. They talked, they laughed, they drank, they ate appetizers and they waited. In between Gaara and she checked up back stage whether everything still went well. But it seemed they had planned well and hired the right people. They didn't have to do any damage control.
Many people attended the wedding, so there was a long queue for congratulating the married couple. When the queue diminished, their group joined the line. They still had to wait some time, some guests kept lengthy conversations with the couple. Tenten chuckled when she saw the tell-tale signs of Neji being annoyed because he had to listen to an old woman who only talked about herself.
Sakura heard the chuckle. "You take this well."
"Thanks." The sympathy was heart warming. Tenten realized they were all there for her, Gai, Lee, and the rest of her friends. She wasn't alone.
Finally it was their turn. Temari was first to be congratulated. She didn't look hostile at Tenten. Just like her smile from before, she only wanted to be nice.
Tenten gave her an honest smile. "I wish you the best with your marriage." It sounded as a standard wish, but it was genuine and she didn't know what else to say.
"Thanks." Temari gave her a genuine smile in return. "You could be the next to marry." She used her eyes to point to Gaara.
Tenten had to laugh, shook her head and happily went to Neji.
At first they didn't know what to say. Then Neji glanced at Temari. He smiled at Tenten. "What was that about?" He meant her exchange with Temari.
"She tried to set me up with Gaara." Tenten smiled at the memory of Gaara telling her that. "How are you doing?" How are you feeling?
"I'll be fine." Neji looked at Temari again. "It'll work out."
Tenten observed Neji. She tried to see him, how he really felt. The many years of working together in a team had taught them to read each other and to communicate without words. She saw he wasn't so tense anymore. She saw he really believed it would work out. She saw him glancing at Temari again. Neji and Temari shared a bond now, and not just the one of marriage. They both didn't ask for this. They would have to deal with politics and clan business. But they were in this together. Tenten thought of the cook they had to escort to his hometown, when all of this started. 'It can end good, you just have to try to make it work.' Tenten believed that now. She believed that it was true for this marriage.
"How about you?" Neji's voice was softer. He asked carefully, afraid of the answer. Not the verbal one, but the wordless one. He must have remembered the night of his bachelor party, and Tenten's sadness.
She remembered the first day when Gaara and she started working for this wedding. He made her laugh, and gave her hope that she could find someone too, that she could find happiness too. Gaara constantly gave off this aura that you were worthy of existing, and that he was honored to know you. The feelings returned from her memory and lightened her a bit at the inside.
Neji would be happy. She could become happy once again. They were still friends. Her mood had already improved. Tenten smiled to reassure him. "I'll be fine. My life will work out."
The wedding wasn't Shinto-istic, but I couldn't find clear information about that. I also really wanted the famous question "Does anyone object?", Tenten seeing them approaching, and her organizing Neji's wedding. So I combined some things to brew my own variation of a wedding.
You probably think: "No kissing scene!" But remember, arranged marriages are not extinct in this version of Konoha. So it's not uncommon that a marrying couple isn't in love. Hence, no "You may kiss the bride." It doesn't fit.
At the end, I realized that this story takes after the movie My best friend's wedding. It was not my intention, but if you've noticed, you were correct to see the similarity.
I hope you liked the way I worked out this story. And I'd really like it when you go through the trouble of reviewing, even if you'll just say you liked it. :-)
Epilogue (a.k.a, ideas I had for a sequel that I couldn't work out):
What about the other wedding of the treaty? Let's just say that the 2 allied Kages convinced their councils to postpone it for a year, so that they could play matchmaker. Missions were done with mixed teams of shinobi from both villages, shinobi parties were organized, and of course the Shinobi Games caused quite the excitement. Blah blah blah, like the Kages hoped; 2 shinobi fell in love, married and the Konoha shinobi moved in with his/her Suna wife/husband. Kakashi added some deal involving medicinal herbs to silence the complaints of the Suna council. After all, Konoha gave a 'mere chuunin without important family/ability' in return for someone as important as Temari. And because of the Games, parties and shared missions, the bond between Konoha and Suna was stronger than ever.