like paper dolls and little notes
no one ever tells you that
forever feels like home
sitting all alone inside your head
It wasn't that Tenten hated flying. In fact, she kind of liked it.
How could she not? Every time she boarded on a plane, she made sure that she upgraded her seat to a Business class seat. That alone was a blessing in itself: satisfying leg space, better cushion for her head, and free cocktails during the flight. They served really good strawberry daiquiri, one of her favorite beverages of all times. The food, while usually bland, wasn't that bad, either—she'd tasted worse; her flatmate couldn't cook to save her life.
At the moment, though, Tenten really wanted to die.
Well, that or slap the obnoxiously flirting airhostess in front of her. Because. Seriously. Seriously. Flirting? In front of her? With the man sitting next to her? This blonde-haired, green-eyed, stocking-wearing woman needed to get professional, and she needed to get professional fast. Last time she checked, airhostesses didn't flirt—at least not so outrageously that she wanted to barf.
At least he wasn't flirting back. In fact, he looked so bored that he wanted to die right then, too.
As soon as the airhostess walked away, Tenten sneaked a sideway glance to her seatmate. There was no doubt about it; he was the mysterious, silent, dark type. The expression—or rather, the lack thereof—on his face was enough to tell her that. He had long dark hair and silvery white eyes, and the air about him spoke of charming confidence and just the tiniest hint of arrogance.
Before she knew it, she had spoken already. "She was flirting with you, you know."
He turned at her, eyes the color of the very clouds outside the window. "I beg your pardon?"
"She was flirting with you. By making a show of very elegantly serving your cocktail after unceremoniously dumping mine here," Tenten elaborated, a little hurriedly, gesturing to the strawberry daiquiri she had on her small table. "She was trying to show you that… she has your best interests at mind and that you're more important than I am, I guess."
"I see." He looked at her, amused. "And how would you know this?"
"Her body language is a total giveaway," she replied. "I mean, she was supposed to stand here by the aisle, and yet she was really leaning forward, presumably so you would get a whiff of her perfume and so she could talk at a closer proximity to you. If I hadn't moved to the right a little, I would have gotten a really detailed view of the pattern of her undershirt. I'm sure it was checkered."
A smirk tugged the corners of his lips. "This is the first time I met a body language expert."
She smiled at his joke, relieved that she hadn't come off as too aggressively friendly or invading. "I'm not," she admitted. "I just… I minored in Psychology when I was in university. They taught you how to interpret people and all that."
His eyes flickered with curiosity. "Ah."
Noticing the magazine on his lap, she asked, "Business trip?"
"Back from one," he replied, easing into his seat a little. His suit was slick and straight, dark blue in color, and altogether he made a fine image on her eyes. His voice was a pitch lower than she had expected, a smooth baritone that was easy on the ears, too. "How about you?"
"Family trip," she answered, and before she could stop herself, made a face. Embarrassed, pink dusted her cheeks and she laughed nervously. "I mean, I love my family and all that, but big family gatherings are such a hassle, you know? Meeting with certain family members who take pleasure in commenting on unnecessary things… it can really drive you crazy." Her cheeks reddened even more and she cleared her throat, looking right into his eyes. "I'm Tenten, by the way. Pleased to meet you."
"Neji," he returned politely. "Pleasure's mine."
Tenten beamed at him, and Neji took this opportunity to study her. She was rather pretty, the curl of her lips charming. Her hair was tied into two neat buns behind her head, and her large brown eyes were warm and friendly. Her choice of attire was casual and chic, with dark denim jeans and a modest pale blue top. Even from his seat, he registered that she smelled faintly of vanilla.
For some reason, this made him want to talk to her more. "So you have relatives in China."
"Yes! I'm actually half-Chinese, half-Japanese," she explained. "I only began to live in Japan when I entered university, and now I work there."
"It really is!" she beamed. "How about you? Did you enjoy China at all?"
Slightly surprised, Neji blinked and raised his eyebrows as a form of response. "I… haven't looked around that much, actually."
"I suppose being on a business trip doesn't let you do much sightseeing, huh?" she asked, and when he simply nodded, added, "Yeah, I know how that feels." Here she brightened again. "Well, the next time you fly to China, then."
"I doubt there's any other opportunity for that."
"I just signed off a deal with our only Chinese supplier," he explained, inwardly wondering what he was doing, sharing with a woman he was most likely never going to meet for the second time. But then again, perhaps that was the point. Easing a little, he continued, "If there's a chance for me to fly back to China, then it's most likely not going to be any time soon."
"You can still go on holidays," suggested Tenten, tilting her head a little in such a way that he caught sight of the silver half-moons dangling from her ears.
A smirk curving his lips, he chuckled, his voice low. "I doubt that, too."
She looked at him in dismay. "You don't go on holidays?"
"I hardly get any."
"What kind of a dictator office you work for?" she asked, a note of disapproval in her voice. "You should be allowed to go on holidays!"
"Oh, I am," he chuckled again. "I just… don't. I can't leave my work just like that."
"I see," Tenten nodded in understanding. "Such a pity, though."
"Is it?" he asked, mild amusement in his voice as he raised his eyebrows at her.
She nodded again, this time more vehemently. "It is!"
Almost smiling, Neji leaned back to his chair and started to relax as she went on to tell him about her many trips. The rest of the flight was going to be very interesting. He just knew it.
Tenten was humming to herself as she pulled her navy blue trolley case from the conveyor belt and set it on the floor. She was back in Japan, and she was still alive! After almost five days of torture—annoying cousins, meddling aunts and couldn't-care-less parents—she was now free and back in Japan! She looked at her luggage, for a while remembering what she had in it. New spandex suits for Gai and Lee, rice wine for her cousin, make-up for the people at her editor's office… oh, and Sakura would so love the Chinese paper ornament she bought for her.
She looked up, noticed Neji staring at her, and grinned at him.
"Is that all?" he asked, gesturing to her luggage.
"Yes!" she beamed at him proudly. "I'm a light packer. I can use one outfit in ten different ways. It's a very useful skill if you travel a lot, and I kind of do."
"That's certainly handy," he agreed.
She laughed, and then pointed at the tiny black suitcase he was holding. "And that's your luggage?"
"My, you pack even lighter than I do," she commented admiringly.
"I only had to stay one night," he answered, his tone impassive. He opened his mouth to say something else, but his BlackBerry rang right at that exact moment, so he quickly picked it up. "Hanabi?"
"Neji-niisan!" the voice at the other end exclaimed cheerfully. "You've arrived!"
Neji almost smiled. "So it seems."
"Awesome! Onee-san is on the way to pick you up."
"Did she leave the office already?" Neji wondered, glancing at the watch on his wrist. It was only five PM.
"Yeah, she had some things to do earlier on," Hanabi explained. "Well, I'm only calling to tell you that Otou-sama wants you to have dinner with us tonight, if you're available."
He considered this for a while. He was available; he had no actual plans, but he kind of wanted to stay at home and relax, at least for tonight. He couldn't simply say no to Hanabi, though, and knowing that Hinata even went to the extent of picking him up from the airport… Neji sighed in defeat.
Hanabi chirped, "Is that a yes?"
"Yes, Hanabi, I'll be there."
"Great!" There was a muffled squeal and then a dial tone; Hanabi had hung up. Neji shook his head to himself and turned around again, expecting to see Tenten behind him, but much to his chagrin, she was nowhere to be seen. Chastising himself for thinking that she would wait for him, he pocketed his BlackBerry and made his way out.
"Tenten! Over here!"
Tenten looked around the crowd and quickly squealed when she saw a familiar face. Grinning, she rushed to the man waiting for her and quickly enveloped him in a tight hug. "Lee!" she exclaimed, "I missed you!"
"I missed you, too!" Lee responded, just as exuberantly. He picked up Tenten's luggage and led her to his shiny new car, putting the luggage in the backseat and grinning when Tenten's jaw dropped. "Spiffy, right?" he said, admiring the car, "Kiba got me a special discount, so I got it for a lower price than I would have if it weren't for him."
"It's gorgeous, Lee," Tenten agreed, sliding into the passenger seat. The dashboard was smooth and slick. In a way, it wasn't exactly what she expected someone like Lee to buy, only because he had a rather… unique taste about things, but thinking about it now, this car really suited him in a good way.
Lee climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine, "So did you have a good trip?"
"Not particularly," Tenten made a face, "Annoying aunts and all that. Meihua-obasan kept telling me that I put on some weight." As he snorted, she punched his arm playfully, "I did not gain weight! Okay, maybe a little, but not that much for people to start commenting and asking me about it! It's not the only topic out there to talk about, you know!" Annoyed, she blew her bangs away from her eyes. "Whatever. Well, overall it was okay, I suppose."
He grinned at this. "Did you at least meet someone nice?"
She looked surprised. "How did you know?"
"You had this funny look on your face that implied the springtime of youth!" Lee replied, rather dramatically, his grin widening. "What's he like?"
"He's nice. Kind of too polite, but that's hardly a deal breaker," Tenten relented, grinning back. No one could stay mad at Lee for a long time, not her, and definitely not when he was away so often on martial arts competitions and training that ten out of twelve months he was out of the country. This actually happened to be his last week in Tokyo, too. "He makes good conversation."
"Did you get his number?"
"No," she shrugged. "It doesn't matter."
"Are you sure?" Lee asked teasingly.
"What, do you want me to run back and look frantically for him? He's probably gone home by now."
"That's true," he responded, face falling for a split second before he added, "By the way, Zaku called me."
Straightening up at the mention of her lying, cheating bastard of an ex-boyfriend, Tenten pursed her lips. "Zaku?"
It had been four months since they last met, and they hadn't had any contact since she found out that he was cheating on her for only God knew how long. Their last meeting had been disastrous—she had to fight an internal battle with herself. She was glad that her conscience won; it would have been a waste to throw her favorite Chanel heels to the stupid prick's head.
A head she had loved, unfortunately, although it hurt her to think that she had wasted two years of her precious life on someone like that. Thank god it was over now; she could do without being lied to for the length of their whole relationship.
"Yeah," answered Lee, making a left, "He asked about you."
"Did you tell him that I'd rather die than see him again?" Tenten asked sourly.
"No," he almost laughed, "I'll pass the message next time, though. He's been quite… ah, persistent. I think he wants to get in touch with you again."
"Why? Because Kin dumped him and he has no money and nowhere to go?" she asked, sarcasm dripping from her voice. Kin was the woman Zaku cheated on her with, allegedly his high school sweetheart. Tenten would probably be okay if they were just friends, but the scene that unfolded in front of her had definitely, definitely passed the Just Friends zone, and—God, the nerve of that jerk!
"I don't think he's still with Kin. He said it was a one-night-stand."
"Yes, well, that didn't excuse anything." Tenten sighed. "You should just ignore him. I didn't change my number for nothing. I seriously don't want to get involved with him—or with anyone, for that matter—at the moment."
"Really? Not even with the guy from the plane?" Lee asked, suddenly concerned.
"Not even him," she answered firmly. "I want to focus on my career at the moment."
"Well, your books have been selling really well."
She smiled. "Thanks, Lee."
"That's alright." He looked at her kindly. "So does that mean you're not going to date for a while?"
The glee immediately disappeared from Tenten's face, replaced by a kind of expression that Lee found hard to decipher. "Well," she started, a little hesitantly, "I'm not arrogant enough to say that if I meet someone nice, I won't date him. I'm just saying that… I want to prioritize work, at least for now, you know?"
"Maybe with the right guy, then."
She shrugged. "Maybe with the right guy."
"Well, you had wanted to settle down," he reminded her. Tenten's career as a romance novelist might be really fulfilling—financially, emotionally, psychologically—as far as careers went, but Lee still didn't think that it was the right choice to not give 'all of the other things' a chance. "You have to embrace your youth while possible, Tenten! It doesn't come twice." With his free hand, he clutched her hand and shook it in the air. "You shouldn't give up! Love is waiting for you out there, somewhere, for you to discover it!"
Gleefully, Tenten laughed. "Alright, alright."
"No problem," he nodded at her, his eyes softening. "Well, to brighten your mood, shall we go and eat at your favorite restaurant?"
Tenten grinned. "And get dessert afterwards?"
"Well, you don't really want to put on more weight—" Lee began.
She immediately interrupted with a protest, "Lee!"
"Alright," he laughed. "My treat. Welcome home, Tenten."
Tenten smiled, turning to her side to roll down the window. Smelling the familiar air around her, her smile widened in spite of herself.
It was good to be back.
1) This is set in the same universe as Bad Behavior, my Sasuke x Sakura story. There'll be a little bit of crossover between the two stories since they happen at roughly the same time, but it shouldn't be unbearable.
2) I have chosen to use Japanese address terms (oba-san: Aunt, nii-san: older brother, Onee-san: older sister, Otou-sama: father) for authenticity reasons, but they are probably the only Japanese words you'll find scattered throughout this story. I assure you that I'll stay as close to the English language as possible.
3) The title of this story may have come from Stone Sour's song Through the Glass, but the song does not necessarily reflect the story. Take it as you want it! :)