A/N: What am I doing? Pure madness, mostly. I really wanted to do a serious look at MPreg, so that is what this is. This will, hopefully, be a well balanced story. I'm no expert so it's my goal to stay as far from technical jargon as possible. Doesn't really help the story when no one understands what I'm trying to say.
I can promise, however, that I'm doing my research as best I can from the best sources I can—whatever those sources may be or however boring I may find them.
Title comes from my theme song for this story, Celine Dion's "If That What It Takes". It's my goal to take the chapter titles from a line of the song, even if it's indirectly, but we'll see how that goes.
In this story, Neji, TenTen, and Lee are 28. You can calculate the others ages from that, if you really want to.
Summary: What would you sacrifice for the person you loved? What about your very identity? Your definition of self? Neji Hyuuga always wanted a family, but he never imagined it would happen this way. NejiTen, KakaIru, LeeHina, and others. WARNING: MPREG.
Warnings: Ideologically sensitive themes, not limited to but including male-pregnancy. Explained the best way I can, but still. You're not going into this blind, you know it is here. So…deal with it or leave my story alone.
If That's What It Takes
Chapter 1: Facing the Night
There were times Neji could appreciate his former genin team's unique ability to read each other without words. When exasperated with rest of their age group, or when facing an enemy that required absolute stealth, it came in handy to be able to know without words what the other two were thinking.
Coming home from a long solo mission to find his best friend sitting on the front porch, his head in his hands, shoulders slumped, and feet scuffing the dusty earth was not one of those times. Because if Rock Lee looked like that, it could only mean what he had feared had happened again.
Clutching the bag just a little tighter in his hand, Neji soundlessly crossed the packed dirt that made up the Hyuuga compound courtyard. "TenTen is alright, isn't she?"
The shrug he received in response was less than reassuring.
Not wanting to sit down yet, the Hyuuga genius remained standing, towering awkwardly over his friend even though he was sitting a couple of steps higher. "How long?"
"Just after you left." There was none of the usual cheerfulness in Lee's voice, and he still wasn't looking up at his friend. "I got her to the hospital as soon as I could, but there was nothing they could do."
The night breeze ruffled Neji's hair, tugging the loose ends. There was a smell of dampness in the air, the promise of a storm. They couldn't stay out here all night. No matter how much he didn't want to deal with what was happening inside the house.
He'd known it was possible. Had tried to prepare himself for the inevitable.
That's why he had been reluctant to take the mission. Three times in the last three years TenTen had been pregnant. There was no baby to show for it. The last thing he had wanted to do was to leave her to her bed rest and potential loss alone.
But the Hokage had all but begged him to do it. A simple escort over to Stone of an important dignitary. Though the ninja world was as much at peace as it would ever be, the rest of the countries were not and it was essential the dignitary get there to preserve the fragile stability they had. Any random person who wanted some extra money could, and would, harm others even now. Their new leader didn't trust anybody but Neji to do it.
In the end, it had been the thought that this was the only way to achieve his fondest wish that compelled him to consent. He wanted his children to grow up in a world where they were unfamiliar with grief, loss, suffering, and hate. If he had to leave TenTen for a short time to do that, then so be it.
None if it numbed the tight ache in his chest, or the sound of the world falling down around him crashing in his ears. Later. He had to deal with that later. "How's she taking it?"
There was a rueful tone to Lee's voice as he spoke well below his usual volume. "Oh, you know TenTen. She keeps telling us everything is fine but…sensei caught her with a knife today. I don't think she did anything, but he was shaken up. She really needed you."
Swallowing against the dry feeling in his mouth, Neji could only nod as the knife in his chest dug just a little deeper. "Does Tsunade know what happened this time?"
"It's…" Lee hesitated for a moment, and then shook his head. "Yeah. But I don't think I should be the one to tell you."
That meant talking to TenTen. That meant going in and dealing with the fact that they had miscarried again. That once again there would be no little one to hold, to fill the nursery, to watch grow up in this world they had sacrificed everything to change.
He wanted to break something. To shatter the wood railing his hand was resting on into small pieces. To feel it break under his hand and get the satisfaction that something in the world, at least, was hurting as much as he was. Though his hand clenched, it went no further. "Lee…"
"I was just waiting, so you wouldn't be totally blind sided." Konoha's younger green beast stood, brushing himself off and looking at him with a cold expression. He had always been protective of their female teammate, and times like this it tended to come out more strongly than ever. "No more missions in the near future."
It wasn't a request, and Neji decided to treat it like the silent threat it was. He shook his head, silently promising that he would not abandon her. Not when there were no more dreams to protect. Lee seemed satisfied with that. He stood silently, pausing to give Neji's shoulder a small squeeze before he took off silently into the night. After all, he had his own family to be looking after.
Golden light was streaming out of the small window by the front door, illuminating their dusty courtyard. Five years ago, he had convinced his uncle that TenTen was the only bride for him. He had brought her to this little house within the Hyuuga compound walls, his new bride, and they had started a home together. It had been her idea to turn the small courtyard into a miniature training ground. She that had torn down more than a few walls to add windows to them, only to tear them down to add another room for the baby.
She who had insisted they paint the nursery a shade of pastel yellow, and had designed the details in the cradle herself.
TenTen's silhouette was against the paper covering the window, and he knew that Guy-sensei couldn't be far away, even if he couldn't sense it. Their former teacher wouldn't leave her alone.
It was not Neji's habit to question his strength, but now he was unsure if he could even walk the three steps up onto the porch. What was he supposed to tell her now? She had promised this would be their last try. How could he face her, now that all hope for extending their family was over?
It was TenTen who had turned the small house Neji had grown up in into a real home. Neither of them had had a family growing up, and it was nice to have someone he could come home to. Extending their small family from two hadn't even crossed their minds until his Uncle had proposed new plan for the Hyuuga clan.
Hiashi had not been pleased with Hinata's marriage. In fact, her eloping with Rock Lee of all people had taken them all by surprise. It was an unexpectedly gutsy move from his normally shy cousin. Knowing Lee as well as he did was the only reason Neji didn't suspect that there was something more at work there.
Whatever her reasons had been, it had served to kindle her father's anger to the point he refused to acknowledge her or any children she produced as entitled to be included in the Hyuuga clan. He had forbidden that they learn any family techniques, and speaking her name around the compound had become taboo. All of this seemed to suit Hinata just fine, as she was as happy with Lee as Neji had ever seen her.
This situation was further complicated by Hanabi. She was not the ambitious and conniving girl most perceived her to be. While she expected nothing less than perfection of herself, she had never wanted to take the clan headship from her sister. For probably the first time in her young life, Hiashi's youngest was defying him. No matter the pressure put on her, she refused to be officially named heir to the clan. She continued to insist that the title was Hinata's birthright, and she would have nothing to do with it.
All of this had resulted in Hiashi's radical plan, that would change the face of the Hyuuga clan completely. Faced with the defiance of both his daughters, Hiashi had turned to the last blood relative he had left. Naturally, the seal kept him from naming Neji himself as the next heir—any main branch member that didn't like his policies could kill him with ease.
The solution had been, instead, to announce that Neji's children would be the ones to follow him, with a council consisting of the strongest members of the clan, regardless of branch, to lead should he die while they were very young.
It had been the breakthrough Neji had always hoped for. No seal for his children, and a chance to do away with the system completely. A merging of the two houses like never before. His hesitation had evaporated, and TenTen had set aside her reservations about being a mother.
When they had stared at the test together, calmly stating that their lives were about to change, Neji hadn't been sure how to feel. Eventually, he had settled on excited, and TenTen had eventually followed.
"…should be home soon." Guy-sensei's voice carried through the muggy air, confirming Neji's suspicion that the older man was still inside somewhere. They were waiting for him, and he should go, but he still couldn't move. The feeling of powerlessness was too heavy.
That first disastrous miscarriage had been shattering. Neji still wasn't sure quite what had happened. All Tsunade had ever told him was that something had been wrong with the way the baby was developing. All that he knew for sure was that it had caused TenTen a great deal of pain, and there had been an intense amount of thick blood.
Either they had been numb the first time, or reality hadn't quite sunken in, as they had both agreed they wanted to try again right away. This time, achieving pregnancy had been difficult, and they had been careful. No heavy lifting, nothing spicy, no risky behavior at all that could be avoided. Still, the baby had died, and nearly taken its mother along with it. Even after she had recovered physically, it was months before his beloved TenTen was even remotely like herself again. She had been listless, heartbroken, obsessed with finding a way to make this family work. To fix whatever was wrong with her.
Despite Tsunade's warning not to do so, TenTen had been insistent that they try a third time. And he had gone along with it because he hoped, in his own way, that they could defy the odds. It had been a hobby as children, to show the world they could defeat all that was stacked against them.
Not this time.
It wasn't until TenTen's shadow moved away from the window that the Hyuuga genius felt himself able to move again. He was being worse than a coward, he knew that. He loved TenTen more than life itself, and yet he could not face her. The only reason she was suffering like this to begin with was because of him. Because of his desire to make his father proud, and fix the clan that had broken his first family.
The door slid easily in his hand, spilling the golden light outside to shatter the dark. Never before had yellow seemed such a cold color.
Guy turned to look at him, his dark eyes compassionate despite the stony set of his face, as the Hyuuga slid out of his mission sandals. He didn't seem at all surprised to see Neji standing there. Instead, he simply nodded his head in the direction of the master bedroom. "She went to take a bath. Would you like me to stay?"
For a moment, Neji hesitated. Back-up had been nice in the past. Though never, to Neji's knowledge, directly suicidal over what she viewed as her failures, TenTen had escaped his watch and pushed herself in training to unhealthy limits. As if making herself stronger in combat would let her fight this unseen enemy as well. Too often, Neji had received a message from the hospital requesting his presence at his wife's bedside.
However unsure he was, however, Neji knew that this was something he had to do alone. They were a couple, and had been for a long time. Sooner or later, they would have to face this as one. "Get some rest, sensei. I will call I need assistance."
There was hesitation on Guy's part too, which seemed so unusual compared to his normal cheerful demeanor. Neji, for one, was glad that his sensei knew that now was not the time for one of his speeches on trust and not being discouraged. Instead, the older man simply nodded and made his way out the door.
Only the sound of running water could be heard as Neji made his way across their house, his socked feet silent on the hardwood floors. It must have taken him longer than he thought to get inside after TenTen had left the window, as TenTen had already washed herself up and was stepping into the tub as he entered the steamy bathroom.
Thunder cracked outside, and the rain that had been threatening all evening finally began to fall.
TenTen didn't acknowledge him as Neji took the wet wash stool and placed it beside her tub, brushing bangs out of his face. Though he kept his hair largely up in a high ponytail now, in a humid place such as this it still clung to his skin. "I'm home."
"I'm glad you're safe." She wasn't looking at him, instead staring blankly at the wall in front of her. They sat in a long silence, broken only by the pitter-pat of rain on the window far above their heads. Finally, TenTen broke it, shifting slightly in the water. "It didn't hurt as much, this time, and Tsunade-sama said they caught it before it was too dangerous."
A soft 'hm' escaped his throat. Neji wished she would look at him. Let him hold her and touch her, pet her hair and reassure her. Past experience told him, however, that she wouldn't want to be touched. Not for a while, at least, and as much as it pained him he would respect her wishes. "TenTen…" Words failed him, so he cleared his throat and tried again, "I am relieved that you are alright. You know I didn't want to take the mission."
She nodded, but from the distant look on her face he knew her heart wasn't in it. "Tsunade-sama told me why this keeps happening. Would you like to know?"
Not really, no. Because the way she said it, he knew this was the end, regardless of what they may want later. "Of course I do."
She lifted a hand out of the water, running it through her loose chestnut hair. "Do you remember how I told you, that when I was younger, I didn't get enough to eat?"
It was because of her mother, he knew that much. Often, TenTen had been left to herself, and as such had gone hungry more often than not. He was just unsure as to how that effected this situation.
His silence must have been enough of an answer for her. "I guess…if you don't get enough, long enough, you don't make enough eggs. So, it would be hard enough but…Tsunade-sama says that…that the last…it's damaged my womb. So, I can never hold a baby all the way…if I can even start to."
She looked at him then, and suddenly his wish reversed. He couldn't stand seeing that defeat in her eyes. His TenTen never gave up. No matter how many times she was told her poor chakra control would keep her from advancing, or that weapons masters had short life spans. This girl in front of him looked like someone had torn her world in two.
On instinct he reached out to stroke her hair, and thunder crashed as she jerked away, eyes suddenly blazing with fury.
"Aren't you listening to me, Neji? I can never have a child. Never."
"I heard you." He dropped his voice to a whisper. "But it doesn't matter."
She snorted at him, turning away so all he could see was her back, peppered with small scars from years of battle. "Of course it does. Your clan, the village, everyone has such high expectations for your future. You are supposed to be their savior."
"We'll find another way to fix the clan." His hand reached for her again, but he settled for the side of the tub. "Hiashi-sama can take Hinata and Lee's new baby. He'll be raised different, and it will change."
She laughed, dark and bitter, and he knew without seeing that there were tears rolling down her face. "When has Hiashi-sama ever gone back on his word? They'll have you take a mistress, you know. Blackmail you into it, maybe."
"TenTen, you're being hysterical."
He should have expected the shampoo bottle that hit his head, but he didn't. It barely registered as she faced him again, trembling with lines of water streaming off her cheeks.
"This isn't a joke! They can and will take you from me." She wilted right before Neji's eyes, resting her forehead on the edge of the tub. "And they would have every right to."
Neji leaned down, hoping to be closer to her, at least, if she wouldn't let him touch her. "You know I'd never…"
"I think it would be best if we thought about going our separate ways," TenTen's voice was emotionless as she addressed the water below her.
Suddenly nauseous at the sensation of his world dropping out from under his feet, Neji could think of nothing to say. She wanted to leave him? Because the elders of the clan might, hypothetically, ask him to take a mistress to prevent the lack of an heir? Which may not even happen, if Hiashi-sama changed his mind? Of course she was right, that wasn't likely to happen, and they might try but he would never betray her. No matter how beautiful, no other girl was his teammate, his sparring partner, his sanity, his faith. Nobody else was TenTen. "You can't really mean that you'd leave…"
She ducked further away from him, eyes hidden almost totally by her hair. "Leave me alone. Please."
Maybe he should stay, but he couldn't force her to speak with him. He couldn't make her take back what she had said, nor demand any more explanation than she would give. Besides, the air in the bathroom was suddenly pressing in on him, making it difficult to think or breathe. Silent as always, Neji pushed himself to his feet, and kissed the back of TenTen's head, desperate for anything to show her how little her infertility really mattered to him. "As you wish."