Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, nor any places, things, characters, nor ideas therein. The aforementioned belong to Viz Media and Masashi Kishimoto. I am writing this fic for entertainment purposes only, not monetary gain in any way, shape, or form.
Summary: 50 prompts, 50 oneshots. NejiTen She was still the same Tenten he trained with every day, but at the same time, she was … different. More relaxed, happier.
Rating: K+ - T
Author's Note: The idea for this story was born from my twin sister helping me organize a list of 50 prompts gathered from fanfic_100 and lover_100 on LiveJournal, with a few of our own prompts thrown in for a different kind of prompt list. Most of the chapters will be standalone oneshots, though one or two might be connected in some way or another. I will post the prompt, warnings, and any additional pairings with each chapter. Thank you so much for checking out my work, and I hope you enjoy it!
Neji had been to Tenten's house only once before, when he had helped her carry her equipment home after she'd sprained her ankle during training. She had invited him in, but he had declined, knowing it was growing late and people got edgy if he wasn't home by a certain time.
This time he was actually standing inside her house, in the entryway, uncharacteristically staring at Tenten - only she was twenty years older than she'd been that morning.
"You must be Neji."
He blinked, at last realizing that Tenten hadn't magically aged in the few hours since he'd last seen her. "Pleasure to meet you," he said, bowing formally at the waist.
Tenten's mother smiled warmly. "Call me Fusa," she prompted. "I sent Tenten out for a few things, but she should be back soon. Please, come with me."
Following Fusa down a short hall into the kitchen, he realized where Tenten had gotten so much of her looks and mannerisms. Her mother moved with the same fluid grace, wore the same style of clothing, possessed the same warm brown eyes. The only difference was she wore her hair up in a single bun at the back of her neck, instead of twin ones atop her head. "Thank you for inviting me over," he said quietly.
Deftly pouring tea into two cups, Fusa delivered one into Neji's hands before settling down across the table from him. "Thank you for agreeing to come," she replied. "Tenten has told me so much about you. I regretted your not being able to come for New Years with the other members of your team."
Neji took a sip of tea, hiding a smile with his cup when he realized that Tenten had also inherited her ability to make an excellent cup from her mother. "I regretted having to turn down the invitation," he admitted. "But my family is … quite insistent in upholding the traditions of celebrating together."
Fusa set down her cup. "Tradition is important. I wish I could take Tenten to see her grandparents on her father's side for New Years every year, but they live too far away. Besides, I know she would bemoan being so far away from Konoha, her team, and her friends for so long."
Before Neji could reply, he heard the front door open. "Mom! I'm back." Soft footsteps pattered down the hall, and a moment later Tenten appeared in the doorway. She paused, looking surprised to see him seated at the table with her mother. Then a warm flush painted rose tints across her cheeks as her eyes darted to the clock hanging over the stove. "I'm late, right?" she asked sheepishly.
"Actually, you're just in time. Neji and I were just sitting here talking about you." At her daughter's stricken look, Fusa laughed melodically. "Relax, Ten." Standing, she went to help Neji's teammate sort out the items in the two bags she'd been carrying over her arms. The Hyuuga watched, fascinated, as he noted the similarities in the two women and how they moved. From a distance, mother and daughter could easily pass as each other.
Finally, Fusa turned toward the stove. "While I finish up making our meal, why don't you take Neji out back and show him the garden? I'll call you when it's ready."
Tenten's amber eyes turned in his direction, studying him as if trying to gauge his enthusiasm (or possible lack thereof) of seeing a garden. "Mom, they have gardens at the Hyuuga estate that are probably much better than ours," she almost whispered.
Neji didn't hesitate to stand up and move to stand next to hers. "I want to see yours," he said honestly.
Fusa shot a look at Tenten over her shoulder, as if to say I told you so. The grin on her face was infectious, and a moment later Tenten laughed, albeit embarrassedly. "All right. This way, Neji."
The two barefoot teens made their way out onto the cozy back porch, then down two steps onto the stone pathway that led through the garden. Neji was almost surprised at its size - the front yard of Tenten's house was relatively small, as was her house, but he supposed both of those things were the way they were to make room for the garden.
Everywhere he looked, a profusion of colors greeted him. There were so many species of flowers, he realized he could only name a handful of them. The Hyuuga garden was bigger, as Tenten had said, but he did not think it was grander in the least.
He must have made some noise of amazement, because Tenten glanced up at him. "Gardening is my mom's passion," she said. "She doesn't raise and sell flowers like the Yamanaka clan, but she does do arrangements as gifts sometimes. Mostly she just put all this in here so she and I could enjoy it." Tucking her hands behind her, the kunoichi laughed and shook her head. "She adds new things every year."
Neji stopped to admire a particularly fragrant bunch of fiery orange blossoms. "You don't like gardening?" Granted, he'd been Tenten's teammate for several years, but most of the things he knew about her were restricted to business, such as her fighting style and how many weapons she carried (a staggering number). It surprised even him to realize he knew next to nothing about her personal life.
Tenten shrugged. "It's all right, I guess. But Mom's the real gardener in the family. So was my dad, until he died." She said the words so casually, as if her father's death didn't really bother her.
Once again, Neji found himself startled. "I'm sorry," he said softly.
Smiling, Tenten plucked a small lavender-colored flower and tucked it behind her ear. "He was a shinobi. I don't really remember him - he died when I was two. It's been just Mom and me ever since."
This woman is such a puzzle. Neji knew some people who had lost their parents when they were young and were extremely bitter about it, cursing the fates for taking their loved ones without the chance to get to know them. But Tenten's natural enthusiasm and cheerfulness seemed to have helped her get past whatever bitterness she might have had when she was old enough to understand that her father would never be there for her.
That line of thought stirred up some uncomfortable feelings inside him. He knew what it was like to grow up without a father - and without a mother. Honestly, he was one of the bitter ones, who grew up clinging to the comfortable familiarity of his hatred. It was so easy to blame his uncle, and the Hyuuga house in general, for his parents' deaths - particularly that of his father.
Yet here was Tenten, who had been younger than him when she'd lost her father. She was the exact opposite of how he'd felt for so long - happy, hopeful, open. Her smile was guileless, eyes warm and welcoming.
Neji turned away from her, feeling slightly uncomfortable. His biggest complaint about being on Team Gai was that he was stuck with three of the most cheerful people in the world - he'd thought they'd drive him crazy. And yet… Somehow, over their time together, Gai and Lee had turned into fond annoyances, and Tenten had become his closest friend. The three of them - one more than the others, perhaps - had gotten him to lower his defenses and let them - her - in.
Tenten's small but strong hand brushed his sleeve. "Neji? Are you okay?" Her expressive eyes were wide and worried. "Did I say something wrong?"
Reaching deep inside him, he managed to dredge up what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "No. It's all right. I was just - thinking."
Relief transformed Tenten's features, and she smiled playfully. "You do that a lot," she teased.
Calmly tucking his hands into the loose sleeves of his shirt, Neji turned to resume their stroll through the garden. "Someone has to do it." He was rewarded for his rare moment of humor with Tenten's laugh, which floated on the fragrant breeze beyond their little circle of shared memories.
Settling into the comfortable silence the teammates often found themselves in, Neji and Tenten continued on their way through the garden. Every once and a while his companion would stop and pick a few flowers, gathering them into an attractive bouquet in her hands. Lifting them to her nose, she inhaled, then held them out to him. "Want to smell?"
For a moment he regarded the bouquet like it might bite him. Tenten merely smiled wider and brought the bundle closer to his face so, even if he didn't want to, he was able to smell the combination of complimentary scents of the blooms she'd chosen. "I think you are more of a gardener than you give yourself credit for." Neji gently pushed her hand away, smiling to soften the sting of his rejection. "I certainly would never be able to put together a bouquet that wouldn't clash with the colors or smells."
Before Tenten could respond, Fusa's voice floated toward them. "Neji! Tenten! Everything's ready, if you want to come in!"
The moment they reached the doorway, the most heavenly smell washed over Neji. While the Hyuugas had some of the best cooks in Fire Country, nothing they came up with smelled half as good as what Fusa had made. In contrast to the Hyuuga dining room, which was large and filled with silent, proper people, Fusa and Tenten's kitchen was cozy, welcoming.
Neji felt a small pang shoot through his chest when he saw Fusa pull her daughter into a one-armed hug and kiss the side of her head before they settled into their own places at the table with him. He had a large family, but the thing was, they didn't feel like a family. When his father died, he hadn't realized it, but the memory of what family meant had slipped away from him.
Looking at Fusa and Tenten, he knew without a doubt that that was what a real family was. Their house, though small and missing a member, was full of love, warmth, happiness. It was fit to burst from laughter, and even in the silence it wasn't technically quiet. The air all but vibrated with a sense of welcoming that Neji felt clear down to his bones.
Staring down at his plate, overflowing with all kinds of delicious foods, Neji wished that he could be part of something like what Tenten and Fusa had. He knew he could never have it with his parents, and all the trying in the world would never help him develop it with his uncle and cousins.
The prodigy was startled out of his thoughts at Fusa's soft calling of his name. Lifting his head, he pasted on a polite smile. "Yes?"
She tilted her head to the side, eyes shining with maternal concern. "Is the food all right? You looked … upset."
"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I was thinking about something else."
"He does that a lot," Tenten interjected with a grin. "He's very philosophical. Always thinking or meditating on something or other."
Fusa nodded, her attention diverted to her daughter. "Your father was the same way," she said. "He would go out to the garden for hours at a time and think on this or that."
Neji nodded his thanks to Tenten for distracting her mother, somewhat embarrassed at having been caught in his musings and being a bad guest. His teammate tilted her head in acknowledgement even as she nodded at her mother, expression eager as she listened to her mother's story about her dead husband. It seemed Fusa was handling the loss as well as her daughter, even though the lightest hint of sadness lingered in her eyes when she spoke of him.
For the rest of the meal, he forced himself to concentrate on the conversation and be a part of it. Before long, he even found relaxation and enjoyment, able to smile and even laugh once or twice along with Tenten and Fusa. He was seeing a different side to his teammate, one he had glimpsed every now and then during their time together, but had never really been able to grasp. She was still the same Tenten he trained with every day, but at the same time, she was … different. More relaxed, happier.
When the time came for him to leave, Neji had to push away the foreign feelings of regret and even sadness that rose in his chest. This home had everything his own lacked, and the desire to stay there for he rest of his life, soaking in the positive atmosphere and the love and happiness that saturated everything, pulled strongly at him.
Tenten walked him to the door. "Thank you for coming," she said softly. "Mom was really happy when she heard you'd accepted our invitation. She's been dying to meet you since I first told her about you, you know."
Neji quirked an eyebrow. "What have you been telling her?"
She laughed. "Only the good things, I promise." Suddenly her fingers curled around his arm, and she stood on her tiptoes to press a kiss against his cheek. It was fleeting but warm, friendly with the barest hints of something more. It made the strange feeling in Neji's chest grow a little. "So I'll see you in the morning, usual place, usual time?"
It took a moment for his mind to clear enough to process her words and their meanings. "Yes," he said. "I'll be there."
Fusa appeared around the corner, wiping her hands on a towel. "Thank you so much for coming, Neji." Stepping forward, she engulfed him in a maternal hug that, for some reason, didn't bother him in the least. It felt - right for this woman he'd known for only a handful of hours to hug him like he was her own son. "And please, know you're welcome to come visit at any time."
Neji nodded, feeling a genuine smile stretch his lips. "Thank you," he whispered. Quietly, he bid both Tenten and Fusa good night, then slipped on his shoes and waved as he walked down the street.
The image of Tenten and Fusa standing in the doorway together, waving at him with the lights from inside the house glowing warmly behind them, brought a peaceful feeling to his heart.
It was only then that he realized he already had a true family. They were not related by blood, but Tenten, Lee, Gai, and now Fusa, had become the family he'd been missing most of his life.
Smiling once more, Neji tilted his head up to look at the stars as he contemplated accepting Fusa's open invitation a lot in the near - and far - future.
Author's End Notes:I have an honorary Japanese grandmother named Fusa, and I love her name so much that I couldn't resist using the name for Tenten's mother. I had so much fun writing this one, and I hope it was as enjoyable to read! Thank you again for taking the time to check out this story!