Title: Talk on Corners

Characters: Tenten, Hyuuga Neji, Rock Lee, Maito Gai

Special Guests: Yamanaka Ino, Haruno Sakura, Hyuuga Hinata, Nara Shikamaru, Tsunade

Summary: She doesn't expect a happy ending with him.


Epilogue

She doesn't expect a happy ending with him.

That doesn't stop her from loving him any less.

She doesn't stop loving him, period.

i.

"Ready?"

Her father figure offered his arm, and she grabbed his hand instead, hoping to borrow some of his strength.

Breathless, she whispered, "Yes."

(It was a small ceremony, because she was not a Hyuuga, nor did she come from a well-known clan, or any clan, for that matter, and not everyone was happy for them.)

ii.

She told Lee that it didn't matter, who needs an extravagant wedding anyway?

She patted Hinata's shoulder and grinned at her when she tried to apologize for the behavior of some of her clan members, telling the younger kunoichi don't be silly, you haven't done anything wrong!

She waved off Sakura and Ino's offer to pool in their money (and those of the other members of the Konoha 11—without prior consent, of course) so that they can at least rent a decent chapel, because I'm not really religious anyway, and isn't a wedding in the middle of the forest more fun?

(She doesn't tell them, or Neji, that she's a little sad, a little disappointed, a little hurt about the Hyuuga's rejection of her relationship with their prodigy.

Neji noticed anyway.)

iii.

"What do you think of this?"

She looked up from her scroll to find her fiancé showing her an ad in the papers—a small apartment for rent, located at the other side of the village, the farthest from the Hyuuga compound.

She frowned. "Aren't you required to stay within the Hyuuga premises even after you're married?"

"I am," Neji answered, his baritone voice hinting no emotion whatsoever, "but let me worry about that."

"Neji." A little annoyed, she narrowed her eyes before looking away. "Are you trying to hide me from your relatives? Because if you're ashamed of marrying me then I . . ."

"Tenten." When she turned around to face him again, she was a little surprised that he was frowning. Not his usual forehead crease or slight downward tug of his lip, but a real, full frown. "Don't you ever think for a moment that I am ashamed of you."

Tenten blinked. "Ah," she barely whispered, unsure how to answer. What was the correct reply to something like that anyway? Thank you? I know? You're so sweet I want to shower you with hugs and kisses this very moment?

Before she could even think of a better response, Neji was already waving the ad in her face. "So," he tried once again, no trace of the frown evident on his handsome face, "what do you think of this?"

("It's perfect," she answered, half an hour later, after she had thrown a dozen senbons, a score of kunais, and one scythe at the ad, which Neji had conveniently pinned against her favorite target board.

"Good," he replied from where he was seated, cross-legged, on his usual spot, and then produced a small sheet of paper from underneath his clothes. "I already signed the deed of lease this morning."

She threw the next kunai one centimeter from his left ear, too near for comfort.

Neji merely cracked a small smile, and Tenten ended up throwing the next kunai one centimeter from his crotch. Neji stopped smiling then.)

iv.

"Aw come on!" she muttered as her fiancé sulked as he walked her home. "I was only kidding! Wouldn't want to endanger the future of the little Hyuuga Nejis of the world, right?"

Neji shot her a glare, and she chuckled in response. "What? Don't you trust my aim?"

"Let me remind you," Neji suddenly answered, as matter-of-factly as he could, "that should I be castrated, you will forever be subjected to a life of frustration, what-ifs, and missed opportunities." A pause. "In short, you will be missing out a lot."

It was as far as Neji would go in terms of suggestive banter, and he finished it off by linking his fingers with her. Tenten blushed beet red, and proceeded to throw a barrage of different weapons at him.

(Suffice to say that the future of little Hyuuga Nejis is still bright and positively youthful up to date.)

v.

She got her something old from Neji himself—his mother's old hair clips, which miraculously have survived decades of unuse, stored away in one of the boxes in Neji's room, forgotten until they were remembered.

Something borrowed came from Ino, Sakura and Hinata—a simple yet elegant cream dress which Ino owned, and the three kunoichi altered and transformed into a wonderful wedding gown.

Shikamaru gave her something blue—a pair of sapphire earrings, and one last embrace, one last breath of regret for letting her go, and you better be happy, or I don't know why I bothered going through all that troublesome process of breaking up with you.

Her something new was a gift from Gai and Lee—a silver necklace with a rose for a pendant, to remind her that she will always be their beautiful, youthful flower, no matter how inappropriate Neji act toward her during their honeymoon.

(Neji jyuukenned them as a thank you.)

vi.

"Do you regret it?" she asked him, one particular evening when he came home from a clan meeting, tired and sullen and obviously not pleased with the topic, probably about his less-than-ideal union with a kunoichi who didn't even have a last name.

Neji regarded her with cool gray eyes, but said nothing.

She smiled cheekily, pouring him some tea. "It's okay, you know," she continued, sitting on the chair opposite him, drumming her fingers on the kitchen table. "You'd think three months and they'd learn to forgive, but no." Resting her chin against her left palm, she whispered, eyes cast down, "I'm sorry I don't have a surname. It would have been so much easier if I were a Yamanaka or Haruno or from some important clan."

Five steps, and Neji was behind her, his chin on her shoulder, his nose against her neck. "You have a surname," he whispered, and Tenten closed her eyes, willing the tears to go away. "You're a Hyuuga now. Don't forget that."

(Sometimes she wished he wasn't a Hyuuga.

Maybe things would have been easier for them then.)

vii.

They made do with what they have, though she sometimes worried that Neji wasn't as comfortable as he was, back when he was in his clan's compound. She was used to hardships—she lived most of her life alone, so she knew how to adjust, how to tighten her belt when missions came few and between, how to splurge when she was given the luxury to do so.

Neji grew up in relative comfort, and she feared that he'd get tired of poverty one day and just leave her.

As if reading her mind—a talent he had honed in the years they've spent together as teammates, then friends, then something more—he told her one day, as she was bent over their small study table, trying to figure out how to budget their meager earnings for the next month, that he never really liked living too luxuriously anyway.

She dropped the bills she was holding, stood up, and wrapped her arms around him.

"Thank you," she whispered in his hair, silently thanking her lucky stars that she married a talented shinobi and a wonderful man.

"No," Neji murmured back, returning her embrace, "thank you."

("And I want a son soon," he finished, only half-joking, as he suddenly picked her up and carried her bridal style to their little bedroom.

She managed a small squeak before Neji captured her lips with his, effectively shutting off any objection on her part.)

viii.

"I don't want a happy ending with you," she told him simply, as she traced the curse seal on his forehead, the first night they spent together as husband and wife.

Neji showed the first signs of confusion, but she quickly quelled it with a light peck on the lips and a charming smile.

"I don't want us to end."

("Do you, Hyuuga Neji, accept Tenten to be your lawful wedded wife?"

"I do," came the baritone response, and Tenten felt her heart jump to her throat, still not completely believing that someone as wonderful as Neji was actually marrying her. It was too much, the feeling of being loved, enough that he'd defy his clan's tradition of not marrying a non-Hyuuga, enough that he'd go through all the trouble of finding the perfect home for them, enough that he'd stand beside her that very moment, promising his eternal devotion to her, to them.

"And do you, Tenten, accept Hyuuga Neji to be your lawful wedded husband?"

She glanced at Neji, and saw that he was looking at her as well, gray eyes filled with so much love, so much that she thought her heart would burst.

"Tenten?" Neji whispered, alarmed, when she failed to answer the Godaime's question.

Tenten shook her head, and, shakily, lifted her left hand to cup Neji's cheek. Tears started to cascade down her cheeks, and, the most beautiful smile forming in her lips, she answered.

"I do.")

ix.

She doesn't expect a happy ending with him.

(She doesn't want one.

She just wants to be with him for as long as she could, that's all.)

x.

Contrary to popular belief, Hyuuga Neji was, in fact, not Tenten's first crush.

(But it doesn't matter, because he became so much more than that to her anyway.)

END


And it's really finished.

/sobs

This made me sad, but I think it's a nice way to end the series, a sort of completing the cycle, going back to the Prologue and such.

/sighs

Well, do you guys like it? Was it worth the wait? Do I need to prepare the marshmallows for the flames?

/coughs

If it doesn't meet your expectations, let us all pretend that this series ended in the previous chapter. That was way cuter than this one anyway, I think.

/coughs again

And to answer Serrin's question: No, Tenten did not sleep with Shikamaru (at least, I hope not).

Thank you so much to DarkAnonymous324, InuKikfan4ever, Crestfallenfeline, Senka Hitomi, steenta112, Glitterthorn, vanelo159, ruthy, Midnight Insomniac, Dreaming101, So Damn Creative, Serin, Sepsis, Serrin (though I think you and Serin with the single "r" is one and the same?), Mysterious Smiles, ElleVipsilon, kenni no. 1, 10pandaluvr10, OasisSerenity, Please, PeaceGirlForever, Chukk, and aloe tea for the wonderful, heartfelt reviews. I'm most sad that I might not hear from you again because this series has ended. I really love hearing from you.

Yosh! Because of this, I can now concentrate on my other stories, specifically Songs for a Dancer and Kill the Messenger. Please, please drop by and check them out, if you would be so kind. Because I like pimping out my stories.

/coughs

And for the last time (for real this time), reviews will be awesomesauce, and flames will be used to make hot chocolate.