Here we go! One last time!
Three days later…
"Ready? One, two, three, and blow." Dar instructed. Naruto placed his lips on the end of the recorder as a sound resembling that of a dying seal came out.
"No, no not like that man, from the diaphragm, down here," Omoi said shaking his head and motioning to his stomach. "And remember, keep them lips pursed!"
"What's the point of this again?" Naruto sighed rhetorically. Learning to play an instrument was pretty low on his list of priorities. Neji looked at his own recorder with disinterest. If he was completely honest, this really wasn't his type of thing, no matter how many times he heard someone talking about his family's talent.
"Well we figured that as long as we had new blood in the system, blood already related to the big three, we'd see if they've got any musical talent," Dar reasoned.
"Plus, if you three are signin on, then it's only fitting that you get proper jobs for a proper group of musical minstrels like us." B said, amusement crossing his face. Naruto's face curled into a frown as he bore back down on the instrument with new intensity. He blew into it again as it let out a low train whale. Omoi's face flinched visibly.
"Well," he said, "that's a little better." Naruto's face light up as he began to get the hang of it.
"I swear, I'm gonna practice every day, until I can play like you guys," Naruto beamed up at the group. They all laughed casually as Neji rolled his eyes again before taking a glance over at Tenten. The girl was looking over Dar's Saxophone with the same look Naruto was giving his recorder. She caught his glance and smiled over at him with the usual 'Here we go again,' look.
"So you say little man, so you say, but it's goanna be awhile before you're anywhere near as good as me. Heck! It's goanna be at least five years before you can hold my drumsticks!" B howled.
"And that's about four years and nine months longer than you'll be with the band B," Darui monotoned.
"Aww, come on man, you have to come clean and tell me what you heard! My brother wouldn't fire me…would he…?" There was a silent wail from the side of the room. It gradually became louder and louder, turning into a low sweet groan. Everyone turned to see Tenten disconnect her lips from Dar's saxophone, gasping for breath.
"Holy Cow…" Dar muttered as they stared at her.
"Mister Hyuga! Sir!" the band members, including Naruto yelled running out one by one. "I think you'll really want to see this!" As soon as Hizashi walked past the whole group turned silent. He dodged Neji's gaze and kept walking, signaling for those who wished to talk to him to follow.
"Just give him time, he'll warm up to you," Tenten sighed placing a hand on his shoulder.
"We'll see," Neji said with an aloof sigh. "So many things are changing around here, it's…unsettling."
"Well, who knows what the future might bring," she smiled as Neji gently lowered his face to hers and kissed her softly. "As long as I'm with you I can look forward to it."
"We're only 14, you sure you want to spend you entire life stuck with a loner ice cube such as I?" Neji half mumbled as their faces drew closer together. Tenten shivered as she felt his warm breath ignite her senses.
"All this time people have been telling us how lucky we are and I haven't really believed them, but I guess in these times, I have a roof over my head, food, friends but even without all of that…" she let the rest of it go unsaid as she quickly brushed her lips along his, tugging, exploring. Neji's arms reached around her, pulling her close.
"I'm the luckiest girl in the world. We'll make this work."
"Look at those two," Minato smiled as he and Hizashi observed them from a distance. Hizashi having managed to shoo off the band for the moment. "Much like yourself all those years ago." Hizashi stayed silent, only looking on. "Maybe you should take the opportunity now to make up for lost time?"
"…No, not now, soon but not now," Hizashi sighed to himself. "I thought my brother was gone for good, having his son around now, it's just going to take some getting used to."
"Well you'll have to adjust one way or another," Minato said looking at the silhouette of the couple embracing, because I don't think they're going anywhere anytime soon."
Eventually, the world emerged from the depression though only if to stumble into World War II. Naruto stayed on with the band and did in fact catch up to their level, ending up as a the lead pianist. During World War Two he was drafted into the USO and ended up becoming something of a minor celebrity.
Shikamaru and Temari were released back into Sarutobi's custody back in Flint. When they turned eighteen Temari enlisted in the armed forces and of course dragged Shikamaru into it as well. By 1945 Temari had been promoted to Sargent in the WAC…Shikamaru had been promoted to Major.
Kiba Inuzuka never did find his sister, or any of his family for that matter. He did however find work in a small Michigan town. As luck would have it, he was thrown into Shikamaru's unit during the war. Afterwards, using Shikamaru's considerably large G.I Insurance they went into business together.
Saskue Uchiha continued to ride the rails with his brother and due to his criminal record he was able to avoid getting drafted into World War II. On the road he met Sakura whom he continued to travel with until the booming economy put him out of business and he retired with her in relatively well off lifestyle in New York.
The world itself eventually emerged from the depression and the following war, damaged but alive. Broken but hopeful. For Neji and Tenten, they world just went on like it did every day, with each other.
"Nostalgic isn't it?" Neji asked as he walked arm and arm with Tenten through the doors of the now aging restaurant.
"Nostalgic for you maybe," Tenten teased. "The only reason I know of the Sweet Pea is because you take me here every year on our anniversary." Neji smiled back subtly as the wave of smells washed over him again.
"Just remember, no playing tonight. This is your day off," he reprimanded in a tone that would be considered stern by anyone else. Tenten however, could only interpret as…playful. So many years of courting and marriage tended to do that to a relationship she mused to herself.
"Yes, Mr. Manager," Tenten grinned back. "So you know…no discussing that concert you booked all the way in Battle Creek next weekend, how we're going to have to leave at three in the morning from…"
"Now you're just making fun of me right?" Neji grinned as the two were escorted to a fair sized wooden table near a newly renovated stage at the far side of the building.
"We all have hobbies," she shrugged playfully pecking him on the check before gently taking a seat. "Just because I'm the lead in the New Age Knights now doesn't mean I can't relax once in awhile."
"That's all you do is relax," Neji retorted as he flipped through the menu.
"Right, right, well since A and Hiashi retired it's nice that we've still got someone to manage this whole shebang. I'll have the Tuna-potato chip casserole and the peach cobbler." She said smiling before turning back to Neji. "So, who's the big performer tonight? Lois Armstrong? Miles Davis? Duke Ellington?"
Neji just smiled at her as she continued to roll off the biggest names in jazz music like clockwork. Not that she was necessarily an unknown herself, the particular genre may not have been as popular as it once was but the New Age Knights might as well have been a household name in Michigan.
"No," he cut in handing his menu back to the waitress. "I got someone special." Tenten raised her eyebrows as the music suddenly flew off the stage. The curtain pulled back to polite applause as Naruto appeared on stage flanked by Darui, A, B, his cousin, Omoi, Minato, Hizashi and Mabui.
"The entire 1938 New Age Knights band?" Tenten asked with excitement as the tempo began to slow. "How'd you get them all assembled here?"
"I had some help," Neji grinned nodding his head over towards the opposite corner of the room. Temari and Shikamaru dressed sharply in their 50's attire, seated adjacent of each other raised their glasses in toast.
The waiters slowly began pulling the tables away from the center of the room as Neji offered Tenten his hand. Blushing, she took it as he pulled her up from her seat and to the center of the floor, gently swaying all the while to the powerful musical strains. For a second again she was that girl again kissing him for the first time all those years ago.
"This is for the happy couple in the middle of the floor," Naruto's voice echoed from the stage. "Here's to Tenten and Neji, for making it work for 10 years now and ever since they were just 14!"
Neji and Tenten leaned in, lips gliding together as the familiar warm sensation shook their bodies as it had so many times before.
"Happy Anniversary," Tenten whispered. They continued to dance, swaying across and back, silent, content, together.
Well this story is actually ending. So hard to believe that the story I began about two and a half years ago is finally done. After a lot of writers block, loose plot points and late night writing I'm finally done! I just want you to all know that this story was a blast to write and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Thank you all for sticking with it no matter how convoluted or cheesy it was!