Arc I / Childhood

Arc I, Childhood: Lipstick / Pink

Synopsis: Yoshino's lips are painted with a pink so dark it looks red.

Her mind is blank for once, silent and still. It feels odd, a detached part of her notes absently, to have the only part of her constantly in motion suddenly stop after years of use.

"Yoshino-chan?" She looks up into the mirror, seeing Tenten's worried face behind her. Dragging her gaze away from her best friend's reflection, she examines her own with a cool sense of detachment, even as another part of her threatens to overwhelm her.

"I'm fine," she whispers, and Yoshino looks at the unfamiliar visage staring back at her lifelessly. Pale, powered skin, a dusting of color on her cheekbones, and eyes lined with thick black lines. Her lips are the only part of her face that remain untouched.

Behind her, Tenten wordlessly holds open her kimono for her, and mechanically Yoshino pushes her arms through the trailing sleeves. The weight of the kimono's outermost layer pulls down at her shoulders, and suddenly everything feels all too real.

"I don't want to marry him, Tenten-chan." Her friend looks up, a glimmer of pity and sympathy in her eyes. Normally, Yoshino wouldn't let anyone pity her, but in this instance she doesn't care. Part of her welcomes it; she would rather feel self-pity than the dread manifesting itself in her gut.

"I know." Wordlessly, Yoshino lifts her arms up and allows Tenten to wrap the thick obi around her waist, tying it with a steady hand. Part of her is curious at how practiced the motions are - considering Tenten's background and the few times they learned how to don kimonos in their kunoichi classes - but she saves the question for another time. Right now...

"Engaged," she whispers to herself, a touch of scorn in her tone, and the slight pause of Tenten behind her lets Yoshino know that her friend is listening. "Engaged at thirteen, to a man ten years older than me."

"You have until you're twenty," Tenten murmurs. "At least you'll have the time to get to know him."

Yoshino lets out a mirthless chuckle, closing her eyes. "I know him already, Tenten-chan. He's... he's..." She thinks back to the dinner parties she attended in her youth, watching her to-be-fiance gorge himself on luxury and women, remembering his greedy eyes watching her, seeing his gloat of triumph as he stood by her parents the day they told her.

She closes her eyes. "I don't want to marry him."

Tenten doesn't reply, and Yoshino knows it's because she has nothing else she can say.

"Kaa-san says that once we're married, I have to resign from the shinobi corps," Yoshino continues, speaking out loud - to whom, she doesn't know. "His mother expects at least four grandchildren, and his father wants a male heir. And he... my fiance," she spits out, voice laced with vitriol, "expects me to allow him to keep his mistresses. He expects me to play the trophy wife, and the breeding mare. And worst of all... he expects me to give up everything."

Yoshino jerks herself away from Tenten's hands, messing up the carefully arranged layers of her right kimono sleeve as she lifts her arms carelessly, laden with the weight of the heavy fabrics. She indulges is the motion spitefully, the angry and furious part of her gleeful because doing so would mean that she could stall for longer, but when Tenten catches her hands and looks into her face, Yoshino's cheekbones color in shame under the white makeup.

"Hey," Tenten's dark eyes search through Yoshino's intently. "It's okay to be mad."

Yoshino deflates at her words. Ever since the announcement of the engagement, she'd been running on polite smiles and bottled fury, letting go only once by mistake. Sharp, harsh words from her father and disappointing looks from her mother quickly quelled any other outbursts.

"I don't even understand why it has to be me," she says, a desperate tug in her gut as the words fall from her lips, her voice cracking. "Kaa-chan and tou-san... I mean, we aren't even part of the main Nakamura line, just a mercantile branch... I'm not even directly related to the main family! And my cousins are trained for this kind of thing, and they're prettier and quieter and just better for this than me, so I don't understand why... why me, why I'm the one he had to pick!"

She has tears rolling down her cheeks by the end, and Tenten uses a handkerchief to pat her cheeks dry. "Because you're different than them," her friends says. "Because you have passion, and spirit, and fire - and they... he wants to break you."

"I won't let him," Yoshino spits out, "I'd rather die than become his wife!"

At the unreadable expression on Tenten's face, Yoshino's heart falters - she values Tenten's opinion above her own parents, above her own teammates, even her own sensei - and to disappoint her best friend would crush her.

Tenten's face doesn't change as she takes the pot of lip stain from the vanity table and brushes Yoshino's lips with a pink color so dark, it looks red.

Yoshino's bottom lip trembles as Tenten leads her out of the room and down the hallway, towards the sound of chatter and laughter. They stop right before the doors to the gardens, where the party is being held, and finally, her best friend turns to her and smiles.

"I'm not going to tell you what to do, Yoshino-chan," Tenten says gently, "But don't let other people take away what makes you happy."

"But my parents..."

Tenten bites her lip, brushing an errant strand of hair behind Yoshino's ear. "It's your life, Yoshino, not theirs."

Yoshino stares for a moment, before engulfing the smaller girl in a fiercely tight hug. Pulling back, she gives Tenten a brilliant smile, before pushing the doors open.

"You just have to do your own thing, no matter what anyone says. It's your life." ~ Ethan Embry

A/N: Not my best work, I'll admit - but I wanted an arranged marriage scene, and Yoshino fit the bill. Her family is the most traditional amongst Tenten's circle, mainly because her family is a civilian family, and I imagine arranged marriages aren't all that uncommon were the Naruto world actually real.

A&G has been updated too, check that out!