Hi! So, I just realized... I have just written nineteen stories! And all of them with reviews, thank you very much. *kisses* So, now that I am on my twentieth story, I decided to make a series of one-shots about my favorite SHIPS. :) And, they will all center around 'twenty'. :D Hope you like them! I call them my 'twenties' :)
This one... Is NejiTen. In a universe where Neji didn't die.
"Happy Birthday, my youthful teammate!" Lee said, picking up Tenten and whirling her around. Tenten laughed, letting him whirl her around for a few seconds more - the least she could do was make him happy.
"Stop it, Lee, I'm tired from laughing," she protested, and Lee put her down.
"There! I have whirled you around twenty times! And I shall do lots of things to you twenty times-"
Tenten turned red. "Lee! That's not a proper thing to say when a lot of people are around!" True to word, a lot of people had heard what Lee said, and were giving them funny looks before turning around to mind their own business. "Malicious-minded gossips," she said under her breath.
Lee grinned, oblivious to any sexual innuendo he had just spoken aloud. "You, my beautiful, youthful teammate, are now twenty years old! We shall now celebrate!"
Tenten groaned. In Team Gai, she was the last one to turn twenty - Lee and Neji being born a couple months ahead of her, Neji in July, Lee in November. It had become Lee's tradition to celebrate their birthdays weirdly. And since Neji's twentieth birthday last July, Lee had taken a step up in celebrating their birthdays. But, in the back of Tenten's mind, she really didn't mind. She loved spending time with her teammates. Heck, they weren't growing any younger...
"We can't celebrate my birthday without Neji," she said stubbornly, and Lee laughed.
"So, are you ready to finally confess to him, Tenten?" he said with a big grin, and she blushed.
"Lee, don't be silly," she said softly, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Ah, ah, ah!" Lee shook a finger in front of her face. "Do not make me remind you of how we almost lost him a couple years back," he said, watching her wince. While Neji was being healed by the best medic-nins in the ninja world, Tenten had spilled everything to Lee, crying against his chest.
"You just made me remember it," she said through grit teeth, although she knew that there was no way she could easily forget- oh, how she hated thinking about that part.
"Lee, I can't-"
"Happy Birthday, Tenten." Tenten wondered why she hadn't sensed his chakra when he came, but it was probably because all of her feelings were getting messed up. There was a great increase, however, in her mood and in her heartbeat, as she found the guy she had loved for nearly ten years - ten years, next to her.
"Thanks, Neji!" Tenten beamed.
Lee chuckled at how bright Tenten's smile was when Neji was around, and how Neji's eyes softened when he saw her. Honestly. These two might as well have been wearing giant neon signs over their heads proclaiming their love for each other.
And yet, not even Neji's near death made them see how much the other cared for them.
"Lee!" Tenten waved her hands in front of Lee's face, a confused expression on her face. "Hey, you okay?"
"Oh, I am fine! I am just... Merely reminiscing on how much we have all grown!" Lee wiped away a tear, and both of his teammates rolled their eyes.
"So, what's on the list of plans for today?" Neji asked.
It was, also, Lee's job to give the itinerary for the whole day.
"I will give my present to Tenten first! It will take about two hours, and then we shall have lunch at her favorite restaurant. And then Gai-sensei wanted us to stop by and see him. And then I will have to stay with Gai-sensei while you two go on the last part of Tenten's birthday!"
Tenten turned red, and Neji looked a bit shocked at the last part. "And... And where exactly will you be?" Neji asked.
"I shall tell you when Tenten is not around," Lee said, grinning. "Aaaaanyways, Tenten, my birthday present for you this year is... Archery lessons!"
She instantly launched herself at Lee, screaming. "THANKYOULEEEEEE!" he caught her in his arms, and she was nearly sobbing with tears of joy. Neji smiled, and although a tinge of jealously was coloring his heart, he knew that Tenten had been wanting archery lessons since she saw them on a movie they had just watched. It was one weapon she had wanted to master.
Of course it didn't bug him that she tucked her arm into Lee's on the way to the weaponry center.
"Nice gift you got her, Lee," Neji commented as Tenten looked like she was having the time of her life as she shot arrow after arrow into random targets. The instructor wasn't even needed. All Tenten got was a ten-minute demonstration, and she had it.
She wasn't the weapon's mistress for nothing.
"Mine will pale in comparison to yours, Neji!" Lee said confidently. They were in an arena, and were watching Tenten from the bleachers.
"About that..." Neji kept his eyes straight forward, watching Tenten. "I thought we were watching my present together."
Lee turned to Neji and gave him the most innocent look in the world. "I could not say 'no' to Gai-sensei!"
Neji just shook his head, and watched Tenten in her all glory.
"You go wait for Tenten to finish up, I will be at the restaurant across the street."
Lee's voice echoed in Neji's head for some time after the bouncing green beast had left Neji alone waiting for Tenten outside the changing room. There was something in his head that made him wonder if Lee knew how much the genius was in love with Tenten.
Of course, no one knew that. No one knew that it was Tenten he had been wanting to see first after being unconscious for about two weeks. No one knew that it was Tenten he had always thought of as the light in his world, no matter how oddly poetic it seemed. No one knew that it was Tenten he gave all his attention to, no matter when, where, or why.
"I'm done..." Tenten stepped out of the changing rooms, tying her long, chocolate brown locks into her signature buns. Half of her hair was in her hand, and the other half was trailing down her back.
Oh, only god knew how beautiful Neji thought Tenten was. She was just... Well, let's say that it was taking all of Neji's power not to grab her in his arms, and growl rather sexily into her ear, telling her to not put her hair up in damn buns-
"Where's Lee?" she offered him a smile.
"He's... He's checking our reservations at the restaurant," Neji said, trying to regain some of his composure.
Apparently not noticing anything out of the blue, Tenten shrugged. "Care to accompany me?" she said, in a playful tone.
Neji merely offered his arm, and she took it, joyfully.
Tenten's birthday was more than she could ever have imagined. Lee had ordered all of her favorite food, and when they were done eating, the waiters even brought her one of the biggest ice cream sundaes that she had ever seen, stuck a candle as big as a firecracker in it, and sang her 'Happy Birthday', while an exuberant Lee and a stoic Neji sang along with them.
"I must have gained, like, twenty pounds," Tenten moaned on the way to their sensei's house.
"Don't worry, Tenten. With your metabolism, it will be sure to pass your stomach and go down directly to your thighs."
If Neji's sudden joke surprised her, she made no sign of it, and simply punched him in the shoulder.
"MY YOUTHFUL BEAUTIFUL BLOSSOM OF YOUTH, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUUUUUU!"
"Geez, we're like a couple of miles from his, and I can hear him already," Tenten said, but this time, instead of sounding annoyed, like she had been for her previous birthdays, there was a smile in her voice.
They reached Gai-sensei's house, and Tenten was, once again, bombarded with a hug that lifted her off the ground and spun her too many times around.
"I am so happy to see this day... Our beautiful blossom, now grown into a beautiful young woman -"
"You said the same thing when I turned sixteen," Tenten said, smirking.
"But now, you are really, truly, an adult!" Gai proclaimed, setting her down on the ground. "And before we know it, you'll be married with Neji, and having little brown-haired Hyuga's running all over your lawns and-"
"Wait, what?" Neji and Tenten both exclaimed, heat rising into their faces. "Gai-sensei..." Tenten said, whining.
"It is a possibility!" Gai-sensei proclaimed, making Tenten and Neji blush even harder. "And Lee will be having little pink children with big eyes."
"Gai-sensei, don't you mean pink-haired children?" Neji asked, looking for a distraction before he turned redder than a tomato.
"Oh, I didn't know that you two were doing so well," Tenten gushed, obviously having the same idea as Neji.
"Do not try to change the subject!" Lee protested. "And if you really have to know, Sakura-chan and I have already had our first date!"
Both of their jaws dropped.
"Wait - you're not joking?! Really?!" Tenten screeched. He's making more progress in his love life than I am, she thought, and snuck a look at Neji.
Exactly at the same time he tried to look at her. She smirked, misinterpreting his side glance. Neji sighed. Give me strength.
Gai-sensei smiled at the three of his students. "It seemed like yesterday when the four of us were sitting down, telling each other our dreams about being a ninja," he said, so emotionally that tears were starting to leak from his eyes. "And now... And now..." he choked. "Now you're all twenty years old and old enough to go on without me and-"
"IT IS OKAY, GAI-SENSEI! I will never leave your side!"
Tenten and Neji rolled their eyes, hiding a smile. Tenten looked fondly at Neji, who was staring at the two green-clad men in front of him. Some things never change...
Including my feelings for you.
"Are you sure you aren't coming with us, Lee, Gai-sensei?" Tenten asked, as she and Neji were getting ready to leave. Tenten had in her arms a stuffed bear given to her by Gai-sensei so that she would always 'remember how to be a kid'.
"I need Lee with me since I'm going training today!" Gai gave them a thumbs-up sign. "I'm sorry if I'm taking him away from you, but-"
"Do not worry about them, Gai-sensei!" Lee said perkily from his mentor's side. "They still have to enjoy Neji's gift!"
"Oh, right," Tenten said breezily, "You haven't given me a gift yet." She grinned evilly. From experience, she knew that Neji spent lavishly for her birthdays. There was one when he got her a whole new set of weapons that probably cost... Oh, she wasn't going to think of it. And those tickets to watch a concert of her favorite band...
Yes, one thing she loved almost as much as Neji were his gifts.
"Don't expect something really expensive," Neji warned her with a raise of his eyebrow.
"Oh, I wasn't thinking anything like that," she said hastily. He smiled, in spite of himself.
"Neji, you should be on your way now," Lee hinted.
He nodded, and pulled on Tenten's arm. "Come on, your gift is this way."
Before she could say 'good-bye' to Lee and Gai-sensei, Neji lifted a hand and lowered her forehead protector so that it was over her eyes. "Neji-"
"My gift is a surprise. Say goodbye to Gai-sensei and Lee, Tenten."
She looked so helpless with her eyes covered that Neji was so tempted to grab her in his arms and take off. "Uh... Goodbye?"
"Goodbye, birthday girl!" Lee ran over to give her a quick hug. Gai-sensei did the same.
"I might get bruises from this," she said, half-meaning it.
"Hurry up," Neji said.
As the two walked away, Lee grinned at Gai-sensei. "Come on, Gai-sensei. We have to make it there before they do."
"Neji, where are we going?"
"We're almost there..." Neji said, talking to her as if talking to an impatient five year old. "Don't ask again or I'll leave you in the street."
She pouted. "You wouldn't do that," she said.
"True," he said simply, and she let him lead her by gently nudging her in the right direction every once in a while.
This was getting a bit hard, since Tenten was bound to trip on something sometime, and Neji was thinking that this was getting a bit too slow for his liking...
Tenten turned a dark shade of red as Neji grabbed her hand and started leading her faster towards their destination. It's not like they hadn't held hands before... Did they? Did holding hands during missions count? Like if she was in the way and he had to pull her away or something? But wait. He had held her wrist. Never her hands.
God, she loved his hands.
She knew they had entered some closed area, because she couldn't feel any wind - and they had entered a door a few steps back. She knew it was lit, but as to how lit, she couldn't tell. On impulse, she reached out to her left, and felt a smooth, painted wall. She frowned. Where am I?
They progressed forward awhile, and Tenten realized that they were alone in this place, wherever they were. No one was talking. At least, she couldn't hear anyone.
She became silent again, and they entered yet another door. "You're scaring me, Neji," she said, brows creasing.
"Oh, don't worry, you'll like this."
A lifetime supply of chocolate, was the first thing that came into mind. Or a jet hangar? He'll take me around the world, she thought dreamily.
"Alright..." he said, his voice soft, now.
Before she could reach her blindfold, he removed it himself, and she was struck with...
With a whole lot of confusion.
"You bought me a theatre?" she asked, looking around her.
They were inside a theatre where Konoha produced some musical numbers and plays for different events - a new addition after the war.
"You bought me Konoha Theatre?" she repeated.
He kept his gaze straight on hers, but he could have as just rolled his eyes. "I haven't explained your gift to you yet. Come on, follow me."
He walked ahead of her, to the very front row.
When we get to the front he's going to kneel down and propose to me. She blushed the darkest shade of red as her wildest imagination came running through her mind like wildfire.
When she caught up to him, he was sitting in the center most seat, and was patting the seat next to her. When she had settled down, Neji gave her one of his rare smiles.
"Happy birthday," he said in a soft voice.
She turned to him, wondering what in the world he had gotten her, and realized that his face was a lot closer to hers that she had realized. They stared at each other for a while, and she didn't know who had started leaning towards who first, just that they were getting closer and closer-
The curtain in front of them opened with a sudden noise that made Tenten jump. Neji, being Neji, had stayed calm and stoic, although bubbling with fury in the inside, cursing at the ugly timeliness of it all, remembered that his present was ready.
Her face was red and ready to pounce on whoever had opened the damn curtain- until she saw a curious sign sitting all alone in the middle of the stage.
Happy Twentieth Birthday, Tenten!
He smiled. "My present."
Suddenly, all the lights dimmed, except for one single spotlight concentrated on the far left of the stage.
He sighed, and pulled out a piece of paper. "Happy birthday Tenten, happy birthday Tenten..." he continued a very lame and dead version of the happy birthday song, which made Tenten wince, and Shikamaru finished with a sigh. "We, your dearest friends and teammates, proudly present to you, a Hyuga production, directed by Hyuga Neji, the Konoha version of Les Miserables, starring Haruno Sakura, Rock Lee, Hyuga Hinata, and Uzumaki Naruto."
Tenten's jaw dropped. "What? What? What?" She squealed, her voice getting higher with every octave, grabbing his arm. "You didn't. You didn't. Neji."
Ever since the team had watched the film adaptation of Les Mis, Tenten had immediately fallen in love with the movie - from memorizing the songs and lines, to even attempting to cosplay as Eponine (although she bemoaned the fact that she could never have Samantha Bark's waist). And although her addiction would never rub off on the boys, she had given Neji the idea for the perfect gift. She had never seen the play adaptation, and had always wanted to see it - but due to her missions, she never could.
So, Neji brought the play to her.
"Did you really direct-"
"Stop speaking, or you'll miss the first part."
She grinned at him, and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Thank you!" she squealed, burying her face in the crook between his neck and his shoulder.
He blushed. "You haven't even seen the play yet."
She looked up at him, eyes sparkling. "But the fact that you attempted this, and it's something that I'd practically die for-"
"Would you die for archery lessons?"
She laughed. "Hyuga Neji, are you jealous of Lee's gift?"
He didn't reply, and that just made her smile. Maybe...?
"Are you two done flirting? Or should I just tell the guys in the back that you need another hour?" Shikamaru asked.
The play made Tenten laugh and cry in all the right places.
Sakura, who was playing as Fantine, had a superb voice, and made Tenten cry with her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream". Lee, Neji revealed, had only pretended to be training with Gai-sensei today so that he could join in the play, was Jean Val Jean, and very suprisingly, had a beautiful tenor voice.
Naruto and Hinata played Marius and Cosette, while a begrudging Shizune became Eponine. Tenten absolutely loved the song 'On My Own' and hoped that it would never apply to her.
Javert was played by an overenthusiastic Kiba, while Ino and Shikamaru, surprisingly, provided most of the laughs by playing out the Thenardier family. Ino screamed about how much of a bastard Shikamaru was, while Shikamaru, just sat in the corner, drank, and was, well, lazy. Sai was Grantaire, and Chouji was Enjolras, while Kurenai's son played as Gavroche.
All in all, despite a few bumps - Hinata stuttering out a couple of lines, Ino's dress sleeve being ripped off in a little scuffle with Shikamaru, Chouji 'accidentally' bringing some chips with him on stage during an enthusiastic round of 'Red and Black', and Akamaru bursting through and wrecking a little of the set when Kiba had to ride on a 'horse' to chase after Naruto - Tenten loved the whole play.
"Did you like it?" Neji asked hopefully.
Tenten took a long time to answer, and honestly, he thought she hated it. The curtain had closed a few seconds ago, to a standing ovation from the birthday girl. Both of them were sitting in silence. Tenten got up, and Neji followed, startled by her sudden movement. "Tenten?"
And in reality, she was nervous for what she was about to do, so she just looked up at him and kissed him abruptly on the cheek. "You exerted so much effort on this, Neji," she said softly. "Thanks," she smiled at him.
He was stunned - he had never known lips could be so soft. "You're... You're welcome." He smiled back, and put his hand on the top of her head, patting it. "Your birthday's not over yet," he said, and started walking towards the exit. "Lee prepared dinner at his house. Party time."
Oh god I just need some air, Tenten thought desperately as she escaped the throng of people in Lee's house. The food had been consumed, and the music had started, and Tenten hated dancing. She found herself on a little bridge in Lee's backyard, which went over a little river. Even in the moonlight, she could see little fish silhouettes darting around below her, under lily pads, and she smiled. Despite all of the pandemonium which was her birthday party, she had enjoyed her birthday very much.
Neji's gift the most.
She leaned against the railings and sighed, wondering what in the world her relationship with Neji was going to turn in to. She closed her eyes, and listened to everything around her fold into her peacefully. Oh, she loved him. She had been certain of that since she was a child - Neji was her first love. There was something special about a first love, even if, god forbid, that he didn't feel the same, he was one she knew she'd always remember even if she was married to someone else.
A wry smile crossed her face. How in the world did she love him for ten years without him knowing anything?
His voice startled her out of her reverie, and she turned around. She foolishly wondered if he had suddenly learned how to read minds. "Wha-what, Neji?" she squeaked out.
He stood at the foot of the bridge, face devoid of emotion, except for a twinkle in his pale eyes. "I've spent your birthday with you for the past ten years, now."
She smiled back at him and relaxed, and returned to her previous position, leaning against the railing. He went up the bridge, but merely stood behind her, stiff. She watched their reflections in the water. "Yeah," she said, with a smile. "You've spent more birthdays with me than my parents," she said, a dry laugh escaping her mouth.
Her father had left her family when she was only four. Her mother had died, and left her in the care of a teacher at the Ninja Academy when she was eight. She was an only child. Truly, Neji was, in a way, more of a family to her than anyone else. And Lee.
His eyes softened. "I'm sorry you can't spend this day anymore with your parents."
"Thanks." She exhaled briefly.
"Do you have something on your mind?" he asked her, and she looked at him. Of course he'd know if there was something wrong. He wasn't her best friend for nothing.
But he couldn't know that it was him she was having a problem with. Heck, they weren't getting any younger, and what Lee had said to her this morning probably got under her skin a little. "I-" She closed her mouth firmly. "I was wondering why you're here, when you should be inside with the guests."
The corner of his mouth upturned in a small smile. "I have more of a reason to be outside than the birthday girl herself. What are you doing here all by yourself, mm?"
She looked up at him, and rolled her eyes. "Shut up, Neji, you know I don't like big parties."
"Yes... One thing I like about you," he murmured. He probably thought that she didn't hear.
But she did.
Her breath caught in her throat, and she chided herself. You're not thirteen anymore, Tenten! Of course he has to like something about you, you're his best friend in the whole wide world, it would be impossible for him not to like something about you.
So, she let out a shaky laugh instead. "You always knew that." She smiled at the water. "You know everything about me," she said.
Both of them were quiet for a while. "What did you wish for when you blew out the candles?" he asked, now standing next to her.
I wished for..., she thought. But of course she couldn't say what she really wished for. She couldn't tell. She laughed a little, and lied. "Beauty." She grinned. "I mean everyone else is so beautiful, and here I am with this mousy brown hair, watery brown eyes, and everything..." her voice trailed off as Neji turned to look at her.
"You just said I know everything about you - and that 'everything' includes me knowing whether you're lying or not. Stop lying to me," he said sternly. "Secondly, I don't know if you haven't noticed, but your hair is not mousy," he said, saying it like a bad word, "and your eyes are not watery. You are beautiful."
What the heck just brought this on? Tenten wondered, and wondered again if she was dreaming. "R-right. Okay. Sure."
"I..." her resolve crumbled. "I wish I wouldn't have to hurt again," she said, as her voice broke. She bent her head over her crossed arms, as she felt the tears in her eyes.
All at once, Neji had a hand on her, rubbing her back. "Who hurt you?"
She smiled bitterly. "You."
He flinched, and pulled back a little. "Me?"
"Yes you, you..." she exhaled, and turned around. Brown locked onto pearly eyes, and she continued. "Do you... Do you know what I felt when I... When I saw you jump in front of Hinata?" She felt the tears coming back, and she hoped she wouldn't burst into tears. "It felt like my world had just stopped."
Neji was staring at her, astounded. His original purpose for approaching her all alone was to, yes, confess. Lee had been bugging him about it all day, and he was starting to realize that Lee was right. He had been still trying out how to actually put this plan into motion, and then Tenten had burst out. He still didn't know what to say.
"I didn't know what to do," she said. Everything was rushing out now - she had to tell Neji everything about what happened that day, because she knew she would never stop until he knew the whole thing. "Sure, I was so composed on the battlefield, but when you were lying down on that hospital bed after that, I just..." she winced, and looked down. "I broke."
Her lips trembled, and Neji felt immense guilt on what he had put her through.
"I mean, I know that you had to save Hinata, she being your cousin, and part of the Hyuga family, and saving Naruto, but I just felt so... Selfish." A tear slid down her face. "I didn't want to continue my life without you. I... I... I actually thought, why did everyone have to sacrifice something for the damn war? Couldn't someone else... Do it?" she choked back a sob. "Why did it have to be you? Why did it have to hurt me?"
She laughed dryly, and rubbed away her tears. "Damn it, I'm crying, and I sound like a complete wuss, and I just spilled my heart out to you when I swore I would never tell you because I didn't want to make you guilty. But I can't help it, Neji, because I..." she hesitated, and went on, staring at the ground. "I can't lose you..." she said softly. "I can't lose you, because I'm in love with you."
There was silence for a few seconds, Tenten not daring to look up and meet his gaze, and him, looking at her, wondering what in the world he had done to make this beautiful girl fall in love with him.
Suddenly, one of his hands went around her waist, bringing her closer, and the other hand caressed her cheek as he tilted her head up, and he kissed her.
It was as if a thousand suns had just lit up the world. Tenten felt nothing but pure bliss as he pressed his lips against hers, and she immediately responded, placing her arms behind his neck, one hand pulling him closer, and the other entangled in his hair. The kisses became less hungry, and slowly, eventually, faded into little chaste kisses on her lips, nose, and forehead.
While still embracing her, he leaned his forehead against hers, and looked her straight in the eye. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "It's okay to be selfish, Tenten," he said, and a small smile escaped his lips. "In that case, anyway."
She giggled, glad it was off her chest.
"I'm in love with you, too."
Even though he had just given Tenten one of the best kisses she had ever imagined, it still gave her such a shock to hear him say it out loud. She smiled, and hugged him tightly.
"Happy birthday, Tenten."
End! Gah. T_T I guess this is what I would like to happen, should Neji end up not being dead and etc etc etc. (I know there's a small possibility of that, but a girl can dream, right?)
One of my 'mentors' in writing NejiTen stories told me that sometimes I have a hard time keeping Neji in character. This time, I think it was Tenten who was a bit OOC, I don't know :/
Anyways, I won't know unless you tell me about it! R&R sweeties :D
Thanks for the click!