WARNINGS: Old prompt, but I couldn't think of anything for the current ones. I just felt like I needed to do some NejiTen. Tensey, tiny, bit of angst, but nothing you haven't seen already in these stories.
The 'verse' used here is a favorite of my sister, and I blame her for its creation. So, credit there where it is due, I guess. It might be AU, I suppose, but might not be.
A lot of the customs I'm referencing is from ancient China, but since Team Guy is largely inspired by Chinese culture, I figured I could blur the line a little this one time.
Inspired by the song 'At the Beginning' from Anastasia. I've just remembered that I forgot how much I loved that song.
TenTen knew she was supposed to be living in seclusion, with only her best female friends to accompany her. It was a Hyuuga clan tradition, and they even had a special wing set aside for that purpose.
It was comfortable enough, she supposed, and the other kunoichi in her age group were good enough company. They'd been having a grand time dramatically lamenting her departure from their circle of single friends and into the semi-seclusion of the Hyuuga compound. It was just that, really, she could only take so much of being constantly surrounded by people.
She was slightly reclusive by nature, and TenTen sometimes just needed a bit of alone time. Which she was taking now, leaving a clone to nod her head while Sakura and Ino debated whether or not Neji would have the courage to ever kiss her in public or not, and Hinata and Hanabi speculated how soon it would take the elders of the clan to descend on the couple and demand they have children.
That last conversation, more than anything, was the reason the air around the kunoichi felt like it was closing in around her. The Elders in the Hyuuga clan would be expecting them to have children, wouldn't they? To act and behave like a real couple.
And a couple was something she and Neji never had been.
TenTen's earliest memory was saying good-bye to her father, a stony clan leader much like Hyuuga Hiashi, when the men from Konoha came for her. This had been long ago, in Mist, before so many were killed for the blood limits. As always in the country, war had been simmering, and her father wanted allies when it finally boiled over. That was why she, TenTen, a child of three, had been engaged to the then heir-apparent of the Hyuuga clan, Neji.
She was his only child, a princess in the eyes of the clan. Except for one very important fact. She was a carrier of the blood limit, but unable to use it herself. It was drilled into her head that she would serve the clan best with her marriage, and she had shed no tears as she left her home. Not even when she spent the next year groomed to be the perfect Hyuuga companion.
Her fortunes had changed since then, with the near extinction of her clan, but then so had Neji's when it became obvious Hinata would survive her sickly infancy. No one paid any attention to either of them after Neji was sealed, letting them both do as they pleased. The engagement was all but forgotten, and nobody had ever really bothered to call it off now that all value had gone from it.
There were several good reasons, in TenTen's opinion, why she couldn't be the one to do it either. First of all, she had grown up in the Hyuuga compound. She had no other home but the small sunlit room that was allotted to her here. If she called off the engagement, she would have nowhere else to go. The second reason was that, while Neji's intended, she was considered a citizen of Konoha. She was allowed to be a ninja and, more importantly, given protection from those in Mist who would see her ended as the last of the line. With the ending of the engagement, her life as she knew it would also end.
Her third reason was far more simple. It was just that she had fallen in love with Neji Hyuuga.
It had been nearly impossible not to! From her arrival in Konoha they had been nearly constant companions. They had gone everywhere together, and shared nearly every life experience. After his father's death, TenTen had been the only one Neji had talked to for weeks. She was the one to nurse him when he was sick or injured, and he was the one to treat her as a person of value. They had never been apart from one another until recently and even then it was just brief solo missions.
How could she not have fallen for the boy who used to kiss her wounds better? Her safety net, guide, protector, and partner?
She would have had no problems with this idea of being Mrs. Neji Hyuuga at all, except that Neji had never let his feelings be known one way or the other on the matter. His approach to the wedding plans had been lackluster at best, and he kept disappearing whenever the subject was brought up. This included when TenTen herself tried to talk to him about it.
The ceremony was to be the next day, and still she had no idea why he was going through with this.
Was he just resigning himself once again to fate? Was it because his father, too, hadn't called it off, and Neji was honoring whatever desire Hizashi may have had for that? There were multiple reasons, all equally likely and all having nothing to do with any attachment to TenTen.
Frustrated, TenTen growled low in her throat and turned another random hallway. She needed to get out of here, to think and breathe air that wasn't trying to ask a million questions she could not answer.
Her ears perked up ever so slightly as she snuck passed a dark hallway. She could hear the laughter of several children coming from that direction, and almost on instinct her feet followed the sound. One of her favorite passed times was to volunteer in the Hyuuga nursery, and maybe those round smiling faces were what she needed right now. They always had a way of making things seem a bit brighter. Although, she could have sworn she hadn't wandered that way…
Brown eyes peeked into the only open doorway that had light inside, and widened considerably at the site. Spread across the floor was a very expensive looking down futon set, its soft white covers glaring in contrast to the tatami mats it was on. On top of that were nine or ten small Hyuuga children, spread out as they giggled, rolled, and played around on the bed.
Most impressive of all was that there, right in the middle of them, sat none other than Neji himself.
Using one hand to forcibly close her jaw, TenTen withdrew slightly into the shadows, praying she hadn't been seen. What on earth could they all possibly be doing in...she glanced around, attempting to gather exactly where in the compound she was. When recognition dawned, her eyes widened again. In the room that had been given to her and Neji. As a wedded couple.
One of them, a tiny girl from the cadet branch with fluffy pigtails on either side of her head, climbed up into Neji's lap and sat like she belonged there. TenTen knew her very well, having spent many of her free hours entertaining the little girl in the nursery. Her name was Ren, and, like many children in her village, Ren's parents were ninja. And, like several of them, her mother had died on a mission not long ago.
"Are you scared about tomorrow, Neji-niisan?" She asked, her small voice bright with happiness.
The Hyuuga genius hmmed in his usual way, tilting his head slightly to look down at her. "Is there any reason I should be scared?"
"TenTen-neechan can be pretty scary when she's mad." This speaker, a small main branch troublemaker named Hiroto, had been on the receiving end of TenTen's wrath many times. She couldn't help smiling that her fury, at least, had made an impression.
She could see Neji's face in profile, and she watched, bemused, as he simply quirked an eyebrow. Though Neji was often at the receiving end of Hiroto's badly executed and badly timed pranks, he himself had never even tried to scold the boy. It must have surprised him, a little, to know she did.
"Nu-uh, she'd never be mad at Neji-niisan." Much to TenTen's delight, the small girl turned and gave Neji a fiercely protective hug. "She loves him, she told me so."
Neji jerked back, visibly startled, and TenTen felt her face heating up considerably. She had, in fact, told the little girl something like that several months ago. When she had been sitting in TenTen's lap, demanding an answer from the universe as to why the person she loved most had been taken from her. All that TenTen had been able to tell her was that her mother had known the risks, but took missions anyway because she loved her and wanted her to be safe.
Ren had looked up at her, looking miserable with her seal uncovered and byakugan standing out even more with her eyes red from crying. "TenTen-neechan goes on missions all the time. Why do you do it?"
"For the same reason." She had brushed Ren's hair back instinctively, offering what little comfort she could. "I want the village safe, so the people I love can be happy here."
"Who are you keeping safe?"
"Neji," The answer had been automatic. It was what she spent every mission they were together doing. Making sure that, no matter what, Neji would make it home safe. To make him happy the best she was able.
She hadn't really meant to tell Ren her feelings about Neji but, in a way, that was exactly what she had done.
Another voice, a very young main branch Hyuuga, jerked her back to the conversation. "Will you and TenTen-neechan have any kids for me to play with?"
"You might be too old to play with them when we do." Neji's voice was kind, soft in a way she rarely heard, as he reached out and rested a hand on the child's head. The way Hizashi had done to him. "But I would very much like to. Someday."
TenTen's breathe stuck in her throat, and she swallowed to try and dislodge it. Kids? Neji wanted to have kids? With her? It could still mean that he saw it as a duty, or simply wanted children, but she didn't want to believe that. She could, almost, hope that he might have more than just friendly feelings towards her.
"What will you call them?"
"How would I know? That would be up to their mother, too, wouldn't it?"
Ren nodded at the simple wisdom of this, leaning back onto Neji's chest. "You two will be very happy together."
"I certainly hope so." Neji was smiling now. Not his usual smirk, but the soft look he usually reserved for moments when he was remembering his father. When he was truly happy.
Maybe it wasn't much to go on, but as she turned to disappear down the hall, TenTen couldn't help feeling just a little lighter. Watching Neji with those children, he seemed more real than he had in weeks. More comfortable. And if he was not afraid, she knew she didn't need to be either. She could believe that, like he said, they would be happy together.
The fact that he said that, that he wanted it, would be more than enough to get her through the next few days. Maybe, the rest of her life. However long that turned out to be.