Last chapter. :)
I'd like to thank all of the readers and reviewers. You guys are the only reason I even finished this. Thanks for liking this Fic so much and reading. :)
Disclaimer: As always, M. Kishimoto owns all characters, and I don't.
TenTen sat in her apartment, staring at the door.
She wasn't sure what she was waiting for, because she knew very well that Neji was not going to come through that door. He was probably being booked into the state penitentiary right at that moment.
A sudden knock came on TenTen's apartment door.
TenTen's eyes widened, not daring to believe that what she wished for had come true.
Slowly, timidly, she went to the door and opened it.
White eyes stared back at her.
TenTen felt her heart jump and thud fleetingly in her chest.
Gradually, the rest of the visitor's features fell into place, stopping TenTen from moving.
Her guest was not Neji. It defied all logic to be Neji.
Instead, it was his relative, his cousin, Hinata Hyuga who stood at her door.
Shyly, the woman gazed back at TenTen; her pale orbs were so identical to Neji's. . .
"I'm sorry for coming to see you like this, so unannounced," Hinata spoke, her voice uncertain.
TenTen numbly held the door open for her, still caught off guard.
Hinata entered cautiously, sending a swift gaze around the small apartment.
"I don't—!" TenTen began, but Hinata interrupted her with a flurry of hushed words.
"Before Neji's trial, I went and saw him at the jail. He told me that when he was convicted, he wanted me to do something for him." Hinata cocked her head at TenTen, studying the older girl in curiosity. "He told me about you. He said that you weren't like anyone he'd ever met before. That you trusted him, despite the fact that he was a prisoner—a murderer, even. He told me that he cared about you more than he thought was possible before. He told me to give you this, since he couldn't do it himself."
Hinata produced an envelope addressed to TenTen in a sharp, hurried hand.
TenTen opened it swiftly and read what Neji had written.
TenTen, by now you know my secret. I killed my uncle. You don't know how heavy a burden it has been, both on me and my family. I never meant to kill anyone, but sometimes, things happen in ways we don't expect them to. Like you, for instance. The first time I saw you, I knew I wanted you. It was presumptuous of me, but nevertheless, it was what I felt at the time. As I came to know you more, the more I wanted you to like me back. I didn't want you to see me as a prisoner, and that was why I kept my crime from you. I wanted you to see my humanity before you saw my iniquity. The closer it got to my trial, I could see you letting your guard down more and more in front of me. You were on the verge of falling for me, I could tell. That night you kissed me—I've never felt freer. Or happier. I know that you're still with Inuzuka. I know that I'm a prisoner, and that I have no right to ask you this, but—would you please wait for me? I don't know what my sentence will be. I know I can't ask you to not marry Inuzuka, or anyone else for that matter. You're free to make your own decisions, and I won't hold you accountable for them because I have no right to do so. As much as I want to, I cannot make my claim for you, because you're not mine. You were never mine, even though I wanted you to be. As far as I can tell, I have no future. But, if you choose me, to wait for me, I'll make you this one promise: I will make it worth your while.
TenTen looked at Hinata, her eyes misty.
Hinata politely patted her arm in an attempt to be comforting.
"Obviously, Neji wants you to visit him," Hinata stated kindly.
TenTen nodded dumbly, clutching the letter in her hands.
Hinata smiled benignly.
"Whatever you decide," she imparted sweetly, "know that he won't judge you for it. He'll love you no matter what you choose to do."
Hinata took a moment to write her phone number on a small notebook pad on the coffee table, and then she was gone.
In the days leading up to visitor's weekend at the penitentiary, TenTen mulled over what she would say to him.
There were several emotions she wished to express. Anger, happiness, sadness. TenTen wasn't entirely sure if she could settle on any particular one.
She was quiet at work, ignoring the mindless chatter that Ino provided, and avoiding Kiba in the halls.
Not for the first time in her life, TenTen wished her mother was still alive. Silently, also not for the first time, TenTen cursed her father for robbing her mother from her.
She read Neji's letter so many times that by the end of the week she knew the whole thing by heart.
TenTen wished she could talk to him in private, and then grew depressed when she realized she wouldn't be able to do that for at most, ten years.
By Wednesday, TenTen had decided she would go see him.
On Thursday, TenTen quit her job, realizing she would soon become the embarrassment of the office. Besides, she'd rather beat the Captain to the punch if he was going to fire her for her misconduct.
Unsurprisingly, Kiba Inuzuka was there following her resignation.
He considered her with sober, wary eyes.
"What?" TenTen snapped, heading to the break room to gather her belongings.
"Why did you quit? Did you think I was going to rat you out? Didn't want to give me the satisfaction?"
TenTen rolled her eyes.
"Don't flatter yourself. I have other reasons."
"Like what?" Kiba retorted, doubtful.
TenTen turned to him, her hands on her hips.
"Like I'm tired of being a booking officer. I've always been a hands-on type of person, and this isn't the job suited for me. I've asked the Captain to write me a recommendation so I can train recruits at the Police Academy."
Kiba raised his eyebrows.
"And I don't want to be here, running into you all the time. It's over between us, and every time I see you, I'm reminded that you're always going to be around. I want a clean break. No strings attached."
Kiba's brows furrowed, mouth slanted downwards.
He lowered his voice before saying, "And what about you and Hyuga?"
TenTen held her head high and replied, "That's none of your business."
Kiba stared after her as she walked out of the jail, presumably to do just as she'd said—make a clean break.
The entire drive was bright. The sun beamed down through the windows of TenTen's car, warming her arms and face.
In the end, she had decided not to pre-construct what she was going to say to Neji. He would appreciate it more if she spoke her mind.
TenTen pulled into the penitentiary parking lot, comforted to see all of the families and friends milling around.
TenTen smiled softly.
She was ushered through processing quickly, and shown through to where visitors were seated.
TenTen sat in front of a small cubby with a plexiglass window separating her from the other side.
The chair on the prisoner's side was empty.
TenTen sat back, mulling her words over in her head.
When TenTen saw a flicker of movement on the other side, she lifted her eyes.
The first thought TenTen had was that orange didn't suit him. Lightly, TenTen smiled.
She picked up the phone mounted on the cubby wall, and Neji copied her, eyes intent on her face.
For a second, TenTen fingered the tabletop, thoughtful.
"I quit my job," she informed, shrugging her shoulders in a helpless gesture.
Neji shook his head slightly, a crease appearing in his forehead.
"I hope that I wasn't the cause of it," he replied softly.
TenTen shrugged again.
"You were part of the reason, but you shouldn't blame yourself. I wanted to quit. Start new."
TenTen shifted to more serious matters, staring at him.
"I read your letter."
Neji shifted on the other side of the window, seeming apprehensive.
Quietly, he addressed, "I meant every word, but don't think I require an answer. You are free to make your own decisions."
TenTen nodded, somewhat impatient.
"I know that, and I've already made my decision."
She eyed Neji.
"I broke it off with Kiba. . . I just couldn't do it anymore. It was stupid to stay with him when I cared about you so much." TenTen paused, biting her lip. "It's ridiculous to feel the way I do about you, but nonetheless. . ."
Neji shifted again. The longing in his eyes was palpable, and TenTen found herself wishing she could touch him.
TenTen leaned forward, pressing her fingertips to the glass that separated them.
"I choose you. I want you. And I'll wait as long as I have to," TenTen assured him, breathlessly.
Neji smiled, the first real smile TenTen had seen from him in a while, untainted by bitterness or sadness.
On the other side, he touched his fingers to the glass where TenTen's were.
"I met your father," Neji began, his white eyes questioning TenTen if this information was okay to give.
TenTen nodded quickly.
"Well, actually, he was the one who introduced himself to me. Apparently, the names of new prisoners get around pretty fast."
"What did he say to you?"
Neji appeared thoughtful.
"He told me who he was, first. And then he . . . he interrogated me."
TenTen raised a dark eyebrow.
"He asked me what I was in for, and about me a little. And then he started asking about you—how I felt about you, how you felt about me. . ." Neji shook his head, casting TenTen an amused glance. "You never told me your father was intimidating."
TenTen grinned; she hadn't been expecting that.
"I hope he didn't manage to frighten you away."
Neji jerked his head.
"No, though I'm pretty sure he was trying to."
TenTen rolled her eyes.
"Ignore him. I guess since he wasn't really present to do the whole 'Stay-away-from-my-daughter-you-worthless-piece-of-trash' bit." TenTen met Neji's stare. "Don't let him bully you."
Neji smiled faintly. He sighed.
"I'm really glad you came."
TenTen waved this away, dismissing it.
She promised, "Trust me, I'll be here every time they have Visitor's Weekend. Just to see you."
Neji's face lit at the vow, and TenTen felt her heart swell with what those words meant to him.
She bit her lip to keep tears from springing to her eyes.
"I love you, Neji Hyuga," she whispered into the phone.
Neji's pale eyes shined.
"I loved you first," he replied.
Five years, eight months, sixteen days later.
Neji handed the officer the orange clothes that marked a prisoner, neatly folded.
"Ready to be getting out, Hyuga?" asked the officer, handing Neji in return the street clothes that had been left for him by Hinata.
"You have no idea," Neji responded, hurriedly dressing.
The officer laughed, though not unkindly.
"I bet. Five years. I'm sure your girlfriend is happy."
Neji couldn't help it—he grinned.
"Fiancé," he corrected.
The officer raised his eyebrows.
"Fiancé? I thought you weren't asking her until you got out?"
"I'm not," Neji clarified, shoving his spare belongings into a duffle bag that Hinata had also brought.
The officer snorted.
"What makes you think she'll say yes, Mr. Arrogant?"
Neji looked at the officer, pale eyes brighter than ever.
"She'll say yes," Neji said.
The officer nodded, smiling. Hyuga's confidence was infectious, and the officer was not going to be the one to doubt him.
He escorted Neji to processing, where Neji had to fill out remaining paperwork.
"Your parole officer should call you within the next few days to set up a meeting," a booking officer said, watching as Neji signed his name.
Neji nodded eagerly, looking at her.
The booking officer shook her head, and Neji walked with the other officer, whose name was Iruka, to the door where Neji was permitted to exit a free man.
It was sunny outside, and Neji's heart leapt as he saw TenTen stroll up the sidewalk, wearing a yellow dress. Neji wasn't sure he'd seen a more beautiful woman.
Iruka smiled and clapped Neji on the shoulder, sending him towards the door.
"Go on, Hyuga. That's your future out there."
Neji couldn't agree with him more. He walked forward, unshackled, into the light of his awaiting destiny.
The End. :)
Haha, thanks again for being such awesome people and reading/reviewing.