Disclaimer: Spoiler for the 614 Naruto manga. Obviously, I don't own Naruto, because if I did, this surely wouldn't have needed to be written. Neji and Tenten would have had babies and love, love, loved each other for a very long time.
A/N: I can't even... Denial... yep.
Sitting across from me, in the small office was a former comrade, Sakura. Once upon a time we were really good friends, but it had been a while since we had last spoken.
"How have you been, Tenten?"
I shrugged in answer hating the need to talk at all. I was fine, I guess, just wanted to be anywhere but where I was at the moment. From where I was sitting, I could see out of a window to the park-like setting beyond.
I guess I really had missed this place after all.
"You're gonna have to be a little more specific, Ten. You want me to sign off on these papers, you have to cooperate."
Fidgeting under her hardened gaze, I smiled apologetically. Long gone were my bright happy smiles of childhood. What remained was a watered down version of my old grin.
I can't remember the last time I had a reason to smile like that anymore anyway.
"Sorry," I mumbled, looking away from the lone bird who had taken up residence in the tree just outside her window.
She smiled brightly at me with clipboard in hand. "It's okay. Now, let's see. It says you're here for an evaluation? Correct?"
"Yes," I spoke trying to be professional, sitting up a little straighter in the chair, a little more aware of everything. Couldn't screw this up now, not after all the hoops I had to jump through to get this slip of paper and an appointment with the pink-haired girl.
Sakura looked at me for a long while with a concentrated stare. Finally she put down her clipboard on the desk between us.
"Tenten, why are you doing this?"
Remember the line, Tenten. "My job is not done there. I have requested an extension for the mission in Suna, because of that reason. The Kazekage and his siblings have made it... clear that I am welcome and it will even help further cement the friendship between our two nations."
"Yes, okay," Sakura agreed, nodding and jotting. "But, why are you insisting on going back so soon? You were there for the past five months, and you've only been home," she looked at the paper, tapping her pencil. "Three days."
I turned my head down and looked at the drab gray carpeting that covered all of her office floor. I became distracted though, even from that, when I heard a sound.
It was that bird singing from its perch on a branch. I glanced at it from this side of the window.
It was a white bird.
Its wings spread once, as if to show off it's lovely feathers. Still it sat there, just sitting patiently on its branch. I wondered. Would it fly away too?
"You're not doing a very good job of convincing me to sign off on this Tenten."
That got my attention.
I spluttered a second and brought myself back to my surroundings from my scattered musings.
"No, um. Please, Sakura. I'm sorry." I fumbled to continue. "Uh, what was the question again?"
"Are you okay, Tenten?"
"Oh," I laughed a little. What a silly question. I was horrible. Absolutely horrible and apparently going crazy too.
"Of course! I… I'm just tired, you know. Been back home, and it's just been nonstop, everyone I see wants to… reminisce or hang out… make plans. Just a lot of running around, it's got me, tired. That's all."
She nodded, picked up the clipboard again to write something down. I tried to ignore the curiosity that pulled at me just then.
Let her write whatever she wants. It doesn't matter if they think I'm nuts. Let them think whatever they want.
I don't think you're crazy.
I tried not to flinch, but still glanced around. That damn bird was still there!
Shoo, you stupid bird!
"On a side note, I'm glad to see you, too. Sorry we haven't been able to get together," Sakura spoke.
"Oh, no, it's fine really. I've seen practically everyone and hey, I see you now, so… a ha ha, no worries."
"Okay, well. Why don't you tell me about the last few days. Then at least I have something to write on this form for you."
"Okay. Um, let's see. Temari and I have done a lot. I have to remember..."
"Oh, yeah. She came with me. She's been staying at the apartment with me."
"Is she leaving soon?"
"Uh, well, hopefully we can return to Suna together." Sakura writes down something quickly, and I try not to flinch at her perceptiveness. I had slipped. Damn. Maybe she knew that was always my plan… Was she beginning to suspect that I couldn't stay here?
I mean really. He was everywhere. Everywhere here. Everywhere I looked.
"Um, right. Well, we saw... Shikamaru the first day."
"Oh, how nice. How was that?"
"You know, fine. Shikamaru of course thought it was troublesome… Temari missed him though. Ino and Chouji were there too… later on at the restaurant."
I tried not to look at that bird that was still annoyingly present and distracting me from her questions. I needed to focus.
"And the next day?"
"Um, we saw Ne, N-Naruto, that day." I bit my lip, and my arms shook for a sec, but upon looking up I saw she was too busy staring down at the clipboard.
She nodded though, and I tried to calm down a bit.
Keep it together, Tenten.
"What was that like?"
"You know, Naruto," I voiced. "He's very loud." And thinking back on all of those questions of his... all of the prodding. He had no problem whatsoever saying his name over and over. I had to just stand there and paste on a fake smile until I just... couldn't anymore and had to tear my way out of there. I think I really upset Hinata then. That was wrong. He wouldn't have liked that.
"Temari was with you this whole time?"
"Uh, yeah… I wanted to show her around."
"She's been here plenty of times though."
"Well, not to see My Konoha! We got to be pretty good friends over there and I wanted to show her the places only the locals go, that kind of stuff." Liar. You were too afraid to be alone. You practically begged her to be your bodyguard. And from what? Your own fears.
Shut up, you!
And there was that bird still. That beautiful bird...
I cast aside those errant thoughts and tried to redirect the conversation.
"I went to talk to the Hokage afterwards about getting an extension and that's how I ended up here."
Sakura placed her pencil down and crossed her arms. A frown marked her delicate features.
"Have you visited your teammates yet?" she asked getting right to the point.
My shoulders fell with a weight I'd been burdening for too long.
That beautiful white bird, once so patient to stay and sing it's lovely song for a while, flew up and out into the blue sky suddenly. I glanced at the empty tree. It looked so lonely there without the bird.
"No. I haven't seen them."
The quiet of the office was abruptly remedied by the scratching of a pen on a smooth surface. Ah, the clipboard. I looked at it as she then set it on the desk. Next she was ripping the sheet from the clipboard that had held it in place.
"Here. You should talk to them, though. Before you leave again." I smiled at her as she stood and directed me to gather my things.
"I will. Thank you, Sakura." I smiled at her, but ultimately, I was ready to get out of there.
I practically ran out of the building as fast as I could without being too obvious how much I hated the fact that I needed to be there. I caught up with Temari at the shop down the road where she said she would be waiting.
"Yeah, I think. Just need to drop this off."
She smirked and I nearly missed it. I rolled my eyes when she looked at me expectantly. Like she was waiting for an invitation, a thank you, something.
"Do you need me to follow you there too, ya big baby?"
I huffed at the comment.
"No, as a matter of fact, I don't." I started to walk past her but she had the nerve to follow anyway. "Pssh!"
"As much as I would love to be doing anything else right now… You need me here. And remember I love you, but you're still bat shit crazy! That paper don't mean sh-"
"Shhhh. Shut up!" I whispered harshly cutting her off.
"Hey!" she protested while my hand covered her mouth before she was finally able to yank the offending hand off of her face.
I defended myself, "I just need a little more time, okay. I'm fine really."
Resigned, she spoke up, "If you say so, Ten." I then batted her away and continued on towards the Hokage's myself.
"Okay, okay. Fine then. I'll be right here though in case you need me," Temari sat down on the nearest bench and leaned her giant fan next to where she was, scaring the academy kids as they skirted by.
"Why are you still lying to everyone?" a male voice asked.
"Ahhh!" I yelled frightened for a moment before I realized that it was just Neji.
Ah, not again!
Ignore it. Ignore it. Ignore it!
I kept on walking and the people on the street looked at me strangely as I spoke to myself over and over.
But there I could still see him, walking alongside me, like he used to. It was more of a glide really. Still graceful as ever, huh?
"Neji!" I whispered to him annoyed when he hadn't disappeared after at least five minutes but it felt like forever. "Why do you always pick the worst times to do this?"
"Because it amuses me... And to see you again, of course, Tenten," he stated as the transparent image of him floated from my side to directly in my path. Rather than dodge him and look absolutely nuts in front of all of these people, I was forced to walk through him so I held my breath and ran with a burst of speed. He turned to smoke in my vision and appeared back beside me. "Plus, I like to mess with you. It's fun. I should have done it more before… Hmm... Well, nevermind. Ah, well. We always have now, huh, Ten?"
Bastard. I should've known he would've been a genius, even in death.