A/N: Happy New Years! Thank you so much to everyone who has ever read, reviewed, alerted, etc. my stories, or me as an author. Thank you to everyone for all the love and support. I knew when I found this site three years ago, that I'd be an author on here someday. All of you have made this experience so much more exciting and endearing than I could ever imagine. I love you all!
Special thanks to AliceOtaku, xxCrunchyxx, Neji and Tenten 4ever, Kazuya RandomAuthor, and SuzuGamerGirl, for being the most amazing friends. Love you to oblivion!
Also, thank you to my older brother for putting up with all the crap I post.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
She was intoxicated in some dim, stingy room. Her eyes were drooping, and the only sound she could muster was a wicked, bitter chuckle. Her skin was abnormally pale, making the scarlet flush of her cheeks look that much more painted. Her clothing, consisting of a trench, t-shirt, jeans, and boots, was terribly wrinkled. Her fedora, balanced precariously on the side of her head, seemed to be a haphazard array of mismatched patches. Her gloves, sopping with some unknown substance, were tossed aside on the counter, tangled and forgotten in a heap.
She didn't seem bothered by her situation, easily stomaching shot after shot of some terribly concentrated alcoholic beverage, but her visage said otherwise. Her face was contorted, in what one could call an almost pensive state. Almost. If it weren't for her peculiar humming (something she most certainly was not aware she was doing), and the odd fashion in which her body swayed from side to side to some imaginary beat, she could pass for a deep thinker getting their weekly booze. With her, however, this was clearly not the case.
"I found her, Lee," Neji murmured into his communicator, not once taking his eyes off the woman. He refused to admit her movement was hypnotizing, her laughter was exotic, and her unusual garb was appealing. He was a detective, chief detective, and he was not about to let his title slip by falling in love with a criminal.
The Hyuuga quietly drummed his fingers on the table as he contemplated the best way to approach her. It was nearly eleven at night, give or take a quarter of an hour, and the bar would be closing soon. He'd have to make his move quickly.
A waitress swung by, winking as she placed his order in front of him. Neji scrutinized the cup with his lavender eyes: it was flimsy, squishy, and filled to the brim with beer. He gingerly took a sip, his attention averting back to the matter at hand. Not bad…
"I'm in a bar in… the north side of Chicago… in the Loop... I think… or-or… was it the south side? Or… wait- is this…a bar? It… doesn't look like a bar… I feel funny….Maybe I'm dreaming… oh my… that guy has been-has been…. giving me the eye for… an hour now… I think… hey, isn't that the guy that… tried to shoot me yesterday?...Where was I yesterday?... Where am I right now?" Peals of laughter bubbled from the pit of Tenten's stomach and not long afterwards, she found herself giggling uncontrollably. As she tossed her head every which way, her shoulders shaking with mirth, her glass slipped form her hand. It hit the floor with a thud, the remnants of its contents spilling in a sticky mess.
"I can't- can't remember where I am!… oh if-if… what was his name again? Neji?... oh it doesn't matter… but if he were here… he'd… he'd be give-giving me that-that condescending look…. oh… you have to- have to- love that guy….I did anyway… I-I wonder…wonder if he remembers me…" the brunette female paused, cocking her head to the side. "I wonder if he remembers me…"
Neji's head snapped up at the mention of his name. His fingers paused, mid drum- roll, as his breath hitched in his throat. His gaze remained transfixed on the brunette with such intensity, it was a miracle she did not have two holes bored into her figure. His mind, however, had spiraled into a thinking frenzy. She said my name! Why did she say my name? Could it be that she- did she just say she loved me? She couldn't possibly still… feel anything right?
"Should I bring the van to the back?" Lee whispered, his innocent query snapping his colleague from whatever trance had captivated him.
Neji slowly shook his head in a daze," No, Lee, not yet."
Tenten was supposed to be in his past. Any feelings for her were supposed to be in the past. She was supposed to reciprocate this, and they were to forget each other. That was their agreement. Well actually, it wasn't really a formal agreement, just an unspoken pact. They didn't want to spend the rest of their lives dwelling on each other, but they both knew they would. This beer must be drugged, that or I'm actually a lot more tired than I previously thought.
Just when the Hyuuga gained control of himself, and his fingers began to drum once more, Tenten went and disarmed his senses with yet another, unnecessary comment.
"I'll never forget him… He was such an-an ass, but he-he... I don't know… he was… he was…" she trailed off, obviously trying to remember.
Neji decided he had had enough. Afraid she would leave him dead on the floor by midnight, he directed Lee to the back and slid off his stool. He walked slowly, carefully measuring the consequence of each step. He smelled her perfume before he was half way across the room. In reality, it wasn't perfume, rather men's cologne, but Tenten had always been full of oddities, so this was no surprise. It was charming, if I do recall correctly. Unfortunately, it still is.
Another few steps, and he was behind her. His fingers twitched, begging to reach out and touch what they hadn't felt for years. But of course, Neji was not going to indulge their request. I'm here on business matters: nothing more, nothing less.
"He was the best thing that ever happened to me," Tenten mumbled.
Neji frowned. There goes my sanity. Why was I assigned to this case? You'd think the department would consider me too "emotionally involved" (in more ways than one). Stupid Gai. I think I'll have a nice "chat" with him once I get back to the headquarters.
The Hyuuga let out a frustrated sigh. With as much authority as he could gather, he said, "Tenten, you are under arrest."
It was torture, absolute inhumane torture. The way the brunette female slowly turned to face him, her brown doe eyes so mesmerizing, so large he feared they would swallow him. How she looked so innocent, too innocent, when she laid her head on her shoulder and observed him. He considered repeating himself, but buttoned his lips. If he were to open his mouth, he would surely say something taboo.
"Ehh? You a cop? You can't be… you're too pretty!" The look on Neji's face must have been priceless, for Tenten collapsed in a fit of laughter. She buried her face in the crook of his neck as she chortled in amusement.
Neji's lips twitched into half a smile. I can't hug her. That would go against my every principle. But she always broke my rules, so why does it matter? With subtle movement, he managed to get both arms around her small frame. It was wrong, so horribly wrong, that it felt just as terribly right.
"I'm there. Bring her out when you're ready," his subordinate told him. This simple statement left Neji with another predicament. He refused to handcuff Tenten. He could not do that to her. Even if she had murdered his wife, his heart still told him she wasn't a criminal. She was a savior, in fact, that had set him free. He didn't want to marry Sakura, but with Tenten gone from his life, the Haruno was his only option.
She isn't yours anymore. The revelation, no matter how true, caught Neji off guard. Tenten no longer belonged to him. She wasn't his friend, she wasn't his girlfriend, and she wasn't his spouse. She had no relationship with him. But she was his happiness, his world. That had to count as something.
Gently, he urged the woman off her seat, and led her to the back door. Lee was waiting, leaning against the van with his arms crossed. His breath was visible in the cool night air, and his eyes flashed with an emotion Neji could not pinpoint.
Lee handcuffed Tenten while the Hyuuga looked away. How had this happened? The female had gone from being the girl who should have been born a man, to his lover, to an A class criminal. Where had they gone wrong? He couldn't even remember why they had broken up. Was it mutual agreement? That didn't seem likely. A fight? Neji believed he would certainly recall such an occurrence, but none came to mind.
"Hey, you take it easy. Alright?" Lee said, climbing into the driver seat and plugging the keys into the ignition.
Neji could see the hurt in his eyes too. He could hear it in his voice. Tenten had been one of his best friends back in college. Lee was having a hard time seeing her in this light. He'd rather imagine her with a high-class job, married to a loving husband: married to someone like Neji.
"Alright, Lee. You don't fret over this either," the Hyuuga responded, turning his gaze out the window. Chicago was always alive, no matter the time. But the streets today were eerily empty and every corner was shaded a darker gray.
"I'll finish the report and all, you head home," Lee said, not once taking his eyes off the road.
"Lee, I'm not letting you do all the work. I'll be fine," Neji insisted. He could tell his friend was fighting back tears, and soon, he realized why his own voice sounded so thick: he was crying as well.
"It's not fair! It shouldn't have ended like this," Lee exclaimed, clutching the steering wheel for dear life. At least it was solid; at least it would always stay the same, no matter which way you turned it.
"It was meant to be. There was no way we could change things. It was her destiny," the Hyuuga responded, trying to maintain his cool demeanor.
"I thought you stopped believing in destiny!" Lee argued.
"That was back when I believed in love! That was when I had her," Neji told him, jutting his thumb over his shoulder towards Tenten.
Friction laced the air between them, weighing down on their lungs till it felt like they couldn't breathe.
"We don't have to do this. We can drop her home and pretend we were wrong about the entire thing. She doesn't deserve this," Neji said after much mental debate.
"Neji, are you kidding me? They'll know we're lying-"
"They put us on this case. Whatever we do, whatever happens, we can always blame them. Just please, listen to me. I know you don't want this either. It's so simple. We'll frame someone else. Make up some story, okay? Just turn right at the next streetlight and I'll direct you to her apartment," Neji told him.
Lee bit his lip. Gai would be disappointed in him, but … he'd have to make an exception. For his friends, he'd always make an exception.
When they arrived at Tenten's apartment, Neji carried the female up to her flat. Lee trailed behind with the enthusiasm of a sloth. They found her key stashed beneath some other junk in the pocket of her trench, and promptly shoved it into the lock. They lay her on her bed. Neji sat down beside her, holding her hand for what he hoped would not be the last time. Lee left him alone after a few minutes, knowing the Hyuuga would need the peace to sort through all the turmoil in his mind.
"I loved you, Tenten. I still do. If you hadn't been so stupid, so reckless, things would have been much easier. Did you think I wouldn't come back to you? Did you think I wouldn't care? Killing Sakura was not the right way to handle things. But it's all right. I forgive you. I love you. You better call me in the morning," Neji whispered. He bent down and kissed her forehead, squeezing her hand before letting it drop. He scribbled down his number on a scrap of paper and placed it on her nightstand.
With a beating heart, he turned out the light.
A/N: Why yes I am full of bad ideas. I know that had nothing to do with New Year's, but it was cute, right?
Thank you for reading and please review!
Happy New Year's!