A/N: All right, this was a request from Seynee. It was a difficult piece and I don't know if it exactly follows the prompt "deleted scenes", but I hope it's close enough. Thanks for the request! I hope you like it!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
It is summer and they have just graduated from the academy. Tenten and Neji are in their team's training ground, fighting under the hot sun, the trees patterning them in sliding shadows. A clash of kunai, a grunt, narrowed eyes, and the sound of flesh on flesh; a minute later, Tenten is taking measured breaths, trying to calm her racing heart as the Hyuuga presses a kunai to her neck with just enough force to subdue her without drawing blood. "I give," she says between pants, beads of sweat trailing down her face and gathering at her temples. Neji nods quietly and steps back, allowing her a minute to collect herself.
The sensation of having her tenketsu closed is still new to her and she has never seen Neji's eyes so close. She thinks they are beautiful full moons of steely gray and lilac, clouded like the surface of the sea. Neji is stoic and judgmental, but even she can tell he holds more respect for her than Lee or Gai.
"Let's take a break," she suggests, heading over to her pack for her canteen. Her throat is dry and her voice cracks as she speaks. The sun is hell for her and she can feel a headache building. Neji sits down at the base of an oak tree and closes his eyes in silent agreement (silence is his way of speaking, she has learned). He folds his legs and rests his hands on his knees, meditating.
Tenten resorts to target practice, lazily flicking her wrist as she launches one kunai after the next at the crudely painted board nailed above the Hyuuga's head.
She doesn't see the way the corners of his lips turn up in some crossbreed between a smile and a smirk. She doesn't notice how his tense muscles slowly relax, doesn't understand the trust he has bestowed on her.
She doesn't hear how his heart beats in sync with the rhythm of her throws.
No, she is young and naïve.
It is autumn and Tenten marvels at the jewel-toned leaves scattered about the forest floor. It has been three years since their graduation day from the academy, and she, Neji, and Lee are chunnin. Well, that is if Neji doesn't pass his jonin exams tomorrow, the bun-haired girl thinks with a twinge of bitterness. She heaves her pack onto her shoulder and finishes the last of the water in her canteen. Neji stuffs his hands into his pockets, waiting for her. When she quirks an eyebrow at him, still drinking, he says:
"I'll walk you home."
This is a surprise. Though the Hyuuga has warmed considerably since their genin days, he still tends to avoid social interactions like the plague. But she certainly isn't one to object to his company and merely nods as if this is an everyday occurrence. Inside, she is unsure of herself.
The walk home is silent, but Tenten feels a tingle shoot up her arm every time it brushes against his and tries hard to suppress a squeak of surprise. She misses the faint blush on Neji's cheeks and the way his shoulders tense with every touch.
On her porch, she turns to eye him after unlocking her door, one arm twisted behind her as she holds the doorknob, her palms becoming sweaty.
She is sixteen and in love.
Neji is so close, staring at her with those eyes. Her breath hitches in her throat as he takes another step towards her and opens his mouth to speak. "My exam is tomorrow," he informs her quietly, and Tenten thinks she sees a glimmer of nervous anticipation flicker across his features. She promptly scolds herself. Neji? Nervous? Never.
"Good luck," she tells him, though in her mind she is screaming don't leave me, don't move on.
He smirks and Tenten knows he doesn't really need luck. Still she worries and twists her sweaty fingers around the doorknob anxiously. "I'll see you tomorrow though, after the exam right? Training and all." In her mind she is going into hysterics because she knows that Neji is leaving her behind, that she is losing one of her boys. He's slipping like sand through her fingers at a rate she can't hope to keep up with.
They're growing up and she is frightened.
A wave of relief washes over her as Neji nods, but then that flicker of fear appears on his features again, and she instinctively reaches out, trailing her fingers down his cheek. This time she feels him tense under her touch and she quickly draws away, trying to form an apology. Neji is looking at her strangely, the way he does when he's holding back something, but instead of broaching the subject, he bids her goodnight and starts home.
He doesn't hear her small whisper of, "Be safe" as he turns the corner and disappears from view.
It is winter, four years after that autumn day, and both Neji and Tenten are Anbu operatives. They have successfully completed their mission (procuring scrolls containing valuable information on newly-developed medical ninjutsu) and are currently resting after a long day of travel home. Neji has offered to take first watch and sits with his back against a tree, observing the dancing flames of the campfire. They are twenty and have lost all their innocence. The Hyuuga traces the tattoo on his arm, another seal binding him to servitude. But it is a servitude he has chosen and it does not burn him like the mark on his forehead.
They are supposed to be using their codenames, hawk and dragon, but when it is just the two of them, the Hyuuga does not mind her bending the rules. His eyes flicker towards Tenten and he grunts.
"I can take watch. Sleep."
His hand is still rubbing the tattoo on his arm and she reaches out to grab it. She sits up, placing a hand on his shoulder, and quickly, almost shyly, she brushes her lips against the mark. He is surprised at the action, but it is not unwelcome.
"Sleep," she tells him again removing the mask from his face. She kisses the seal on his forehead and Neji closes his eyes for the first time in hours, relaxing under her touch, inhaling her strawberry scent.
He falls asleep with his head in her lap and her hand tangled in his hair. They can't hear their hearts beating in rhythm, the perfect synchronization of their breaths.
Breathe in, breathe out.
It is spring, and they are twenty-five. Tenten is sitting in the training grounds, sharpening kunai. She looks up when Neji's sandaled feet come to stand before her, and offers him a smile.
He nods; silence is his language. She stands as he sits, kunai dangling from her fingers. She pulls her arm back, takes aim, and launches one weapon after the other at that same old tattered target board.
This time she catches his crooked smile, the way his shoulders slacken, and knows he trusts her.
She knows the rhythm of his heart, loves the way his pulse feels underneath her fingertips.
She is not so young anymore.
A/N: Okay so I actually don't know what the hell that was. I was trying to show how they both missed the little things in each scene, hence the "deleted scenes" theme. So… I hope you liked it.
Thank you for reading and please review!