Disclaimer: These characters belong to a man named Masashi Kishimoto. I do not own any of the characters used nor do I gain any profit from writing this story.
Warning: Rated T for language.
Chapter 20: Scheming Done Right
Soft brown eyes watched as kids of different ages shouted, jumped, and ran. Some giggled and squealed as they had fun in the slides, while a group of boys dominated the swings. At the farthest corner, by the sandbox, the little girls played with their dolls, occasionally trading their toy's clothes with another one from their playmates.
All of this Tenten watched in mild amusement, and she smiled tenderly when one of the kids screamed in delight when he successfully built a sandcastle. Said boy quickly called the attention of his peers and basked in the praises they all gave him for making a perfect castle.
Then, they all proceeded to jump at the mound, laughing childishly at the damage they had done before running off to play a game of tag. Tenten giggled at their actions and continued observing them. And this time, she no longer felt the sense of emptiness in her heart whenever she'd watch kids play.
After all, there was a time in her life, she admitted, where she'd feel a sudden pang of loneliness when she was in the company of children. She'd hide that sadness with a smile, as always, and then she'd play with them or read them a story. Anything, really, to amuse them while she'd try to forget her own issues.
However, hiding her emotions wasn't making things right nor was it helping her, and Tenten knew that she was never going to heal if she stayed hidden in that facade. So she resigned from her job at the day care center and looked for an open slot where she could work as an architect. Her grandfather was quick to introduce her to Hatake Kakashi, another student of Hiruzen way back who also graduated in Architecture.
Today marked Tenten's six-month anniversary in Kakashi's office, and the man immediately suggested she'd take a day off. A reward for all her hard work, as Kakashi explained before he buried his nose on that favourite book of his.
Tenten accepted the offer quickly but not because she was tired of her work and badly needed a break. No, nothing of that sort – she loved her new job, after all. But today, she needed the time to think because... because this day also marked the day she broke up with Neji.
'Neji,' Tenten thought fondly, a small smile on her lips. 'I wonder how he's doing now?'
Because the last time she actually talked to him after their breakup, Neji was getting ready for his four-hour flight to Suna for his training as an assistant manager, and Tenten was fussing over him like a typical stage mother. Neji even had the audacity to point it too, much to Tenten's annoyance. But before Tenten could even complain, Neji suddenly held her tight and whispered in her ear that he'd wait for her – he'd wait until she sorted out all the guilt in her heart and be ready to start anew.
Tenten sadly shook her head, but she returned the hug nonetheless.
"You deserve someone better, Neji." Tenten whispered what she told him on the day they broke up. "Someone much, much better than a broken liar like me."
But Neji was also adamant.
"You broke up with me because you believe you don't deserve a second chance," he said. "But I'll wait for you. Because I know we were fated to be together."
And then, he distanced himself from her so he could plant a soft kiss on her forehead before he completely let go and made his way to his flight. Tenten watched him leave, trying to forget how she quickly missed his warmth, and waved when Neji looked back.
She committed to her memory the smile he gave her.
"We are going clubbing."
He had to do a double take as he watched his pretty but psychotic neighbour drag him out of his apartment. A sigh on his left was heard, and Suigetsu turned just in time to see Juugo (the temperamental one) shake his head as he trailed along.
"What's going on?" Suigetsu asked out loud. "And why the hell are you happy, woman? Where the hell are you taking me?"
He tried to escape her hold, for bad things happen when Karin was happy like this, but the redhead had a very strong grip on his wrist. And even as Suigetsu tried his best to break free, his efforts were clearly wasted as Karin had the strength or a raging bull. Having no room for escape, Suigetsu then turned to Juugo for silent support, but said man only shrugged helplessly and gave Suigetsu the "she's in the mood and we can't stop her" look.
Poor Suigetsu gulped.
"O-oi! You're weirding me out!" The Hozuki shouted. "Where are we going, damn it?!"
Karin huffed in annoyance and rolled her eyes, although the two men behind her could not see the action. "I told you, we're going clubbing!"
"The fuck?!" Suigetsu cursed, and behind him, Juugo flinched. "It's two in the afternoon, stupid! There are no clubs opened yet!"
The redhead beauty suddenly pulled, almost making Suigetsu topple over. She placed her hands on her hips and frowned, only speaking when both boys gave her their full attention.
"Not here, dumbass! We're going on a road trip first and we're heading out to Wave City! I heard they have the coolest night clubs there."
"That's five, almost six hours from here!" Suigetsu exclaimed. "Are you crazy?!"
"Just young and beautiful." Karin answered in a purr as she proudly adjusted her glasses. "Besides, this was Juugo's idea."
Suigetsu, with wide-open eyes, stared at Juugo for confirmation. The latter merely nodded his head, a silent gesture that, yes, this trip was all his idea.
"But I'm going to Wave for the sights," Juugo explained to the frozen in shock Suigetsu. "I hear that the place's scenery is quite pleasant to the mind and soul."
"Juugo wanted to invite us, and I decreed that us three need some good vacation!" Karin explained, nose up in the air. "A vacation is much better than just staying here and moping around, right Suiggy?"
The addressed man scowled. "Don't call me that!" He hissed and quickly added, "And I do not mope." His two friends stared at him incredulously, and Suigetsu flinched although he managed to stand his ground. "I really don't!"
"You kind of do," Karin argued and looked at Juugo. "Right, Juugo?" And much to Suigetsu's mortification, Juugo nodded solemnly. "See, even Juugo thinks so too."
"You two are ganging up on me!"
Karin let out an unladylike snort. "Please," she scoffed and examined her nails. "Juugo and I don't look for fights, stupid. We're not like you. Or should I remind you of your match with that Hyuuga?"
Suigetsu crossed his arms and looked away with a grunt.
Yes, it was true. He did challenge Hyuuga Neji days after Tenten officially told him that she didn't want to see him anymore. At that time, Suigetsu was still pretty angry, and he directed all those anger to Neji, thinking that it was all the Hyuuga's fault that Tenten didn't want him anymore. So Suigetsu picked a fight with Neji, which the latter turned down, because there was no point in fighting as Tenten also broke up with him.
The Hyuuga immediately turned to leave after saying so, but his companion, a slightly odd-looking fellow with the brightest eyes and biggest eyebrows Suigetsu had ever seen, commented that Suigetsu looked like the unyouthful fiend who attacked Tenten at the grocery store.
Neji suddenly turned murderous and told Suigetsu that he changed his mind – he was up for a spar.
A spar that ended in Suigetsu sporting two broken ribs, bruises in the arms, a slight concussion in the head, and a broken ego. But in Suigetsu's defense, at least he managed to land a punch in the Hyuuga's face which will definitely result in a black eye.
"And if I didn't know better," Karin suddenly ranted, which stopped Suigetsu from remembering his duel with Neji, "you probably still have a picture of your ex in your wallet or something, do you?"
An awkward silence followed.
Karin narrowed her eyes while Juugo coughed lightly. They gave Suigetsu a pointed stare, and the man scowled and refused to look their way. Both Karin's and Juugo's eyes widened in realization.
"Suigetsu... do you really—"
"I'm not answering that."
Karin threw her hands up in the air. "You do, don't you?!" She screeched and growled at the kids who looked at her weirdly – they all ran away like frightened little imps. "Hell yes, you do! Now give it here! I'm burning that shit!"
A scuffle ensued as the redhead and the bluenette argued over the wallet. Suigetsu tried to deny any picture but made the mistake of reaching for his pocket to pat his wallet almost protectively. Karin hastily lunged at him and kneed him in the stomach, prompting him to double over in pain. The girl made use of the momentary lack of concentration to reach for his pocket and swipe the wallet.
The girl cheered in victory, waving Suigetsu's wallet like a trophy. Juugo clapped for the winner, earning him a glare from Suigetsu. Then, Karin opened the wallet, curiously looking for a picture, and Juugo moved closer to her to peer over her shoulder. They found a lone picture of a smiling pretty brunette, and they raised a brow as they looked at the picture then at Suigetsu, and repeat cycle.
"She's quite pretty, Suigetsu. I can now understand why you refuse to burn it."
"Poser! No way a girl like this would settle for a wimp like you! Now where's the real picture of your ex-girlfriend, you dope!"
Suigetsu wheezed, still nursing his painful gut, before he could form a proper answer to his so-called friends. "Fuck you, guys."
'It's so like them to be late,' Tenten mused as she sat on the bench. Earlier, she had received a message from Ino, telling her that they (as in, Ino, Sakura, Tenten, and Hinata) should hang out or something because, as quoted from the blonde herself, "It's been soooooooooo long since we had a get-together! Boohoo!"
Unfortunately, Hinata had some business/date with a certain blonde loudmouth, so she had to pass and she apologized profusely to one steaming Ino who claimed that Hinata should really put her chicks before dicks. Tenten was sure that Hinata was steaming red by what Ino said.
And then, Tenten received a message from Ino, claiming that they were going to be a little late because "Forehead's being her stupid forehead self again and refuses to come out of the shower." That was five minutes ago, and knowing her two best friends, Tenten was aware that she would have to wait for another 25 minutes or more.
The brunette checked her phone but huffed when she had no new messages received from either Sakura or Ino. She huffed once more and decided to look for something that might interest her while she waited for her friends. It was at this moment that she spotted someone familiar. But before she could call out to him, he noticed her first and proceeded to approach her with a big grin on his face.
"Sissy!" Konohamaru called out merrily as he jogged toward his sister. To his left, Tobi took the chance of being free from his leash by racing to Tenten's side like a whizzing bullet. The dog barked and wiggled ecstatically as Tenten ruffled his fur and cooed at him affectionately.
"Hey, you guys." Tenten greeted as soon as Konohamaru was near enough. "No classes today, Konohamaru?"
Her little brother shook his head. "Nope. University holiday. Something about celebrating some dead dude who found the school or stuff..."
"You mean Founder's Day?"
"Yeah, that!" Konohamaru said with a huge smile. "So I thought I should walk Tobi and Panda here at the park. They need the exercise, don't you think?"
The puppy in Konohamaru's arms let out a high-pitched bark as he heard his name being mentioned.
Panda was the name of their new dog, affectionately called by Tenten as such because of his odd color combination – a pitch black lower body and a pure white snow for his upper body, except for the black circle around his right eye.
Apparently, Tobi disappeared a couple of days ago and came back with the puppy trailing along with him. The poor pup looked frail and weak, and the Sarutobi family immediately took him to the Inuzuka's and had him checked up. They also released flyers, asking if anyone knew the dog, but when no one claimed it, Tenten quickly adopted him and cared for him like she did with Tobi.
Now, the little puppy looked healthier than before, especially since he gained a few pounds under Tenten's care. He yipped and pawed in Konohamaru's arms when he spotted Tenten, and the girl immediately raised her hands to receive him.
"You spoil them too much, sissy."
"No, I don't." Tenten denied quickly, even when Tobi clambered on the bench to sit beside her and rest his head on her lap. Konohamaru raised a brow and pointed at Tobi.
"You were saying?"
"Oh shush. They're just showing me some love, Konohamaru."
The younger Sarutobi puffed and decided to drop the subject. It was no use arguing with his sister, after all. Instead, he said, "Yeah, fine. But can you keep an eye on the panda-dog? Tobi and I need to finish our rounds."
No sooner that Konohamaru finished his sentence, a squirrel passed by and stopped in front of them. It tilted its head as it looked at them curiously, tail swishing back and forth, before sprinting off. Tobi took this as a challenge, it seemed, and the dog perked up as his right eye followed the squirrel. Then, the dog proceeded to chase the bushy critter with a speed that could rival with Lee.
Konohamaru cursed. "I better go get him before he attracts unwanted attention again." He was gone before his sister could even nod in agreement.
Tenten sighed softly as she watched her brother go and set the puppy on her lap. "Guess it's just you and me, huh, Panda-chan?" She cooed and laughed when the little animal barked in agreement as he settled comfortably in his mistress' lap.
Both human and puppy were just about to settle down and enjoy the peace when Tenten's phone rang shrilly. The girl was quick to answer it.
"Tenten!" Ino exclaimed on the other side. "Where are you?!"
The brunette was confused. "Still at the park, waiting for you and Sakura. What's taking you two anyway?"
A snort. "Sorry, but Forehead had to put on extra makeup because she has a huge zit on her face." Tenten heard some wrestling sounds and an indignant "Hey!" before Ino continued. "I hope you aren't too bored there?"
"No, not at all," Tenten answered. "I saw Konohamaru just now, and due to some events, I am now babysitting Panda-chan while waiting for my brother to come back."
There was a long pause before Ino suddenly spoke. "Forehead and I are coming soon. Don't you dare move! Alright, Tennie-bear?"
"Okay? Ino, are you—"
There was a click, followed by a series of dial tones that had Tenten scowling because the pig just hung up on her! Oh, she was so going to give Ino an earful soon!
"Can you believe it, Panda-chan? She hung up on me!" Tenten complained hotly, grumbling some more about pigs and slaughter houses. Her little companion turned to look at her, before he yawned and snuggled himself comfortably on Tenten's lap.
"And Sakura's getting some lecture from me too!" Tenten continued to complain as she huffily pocketed her phone and scowled. "Darn it! Those two are so in trouble and I am so going to make them pay for this!"
A pause, and blessed silence reigned except for Tenten's deep breathing. The girl pouted and inwardly raged as she planned her revenge on Ino and Sakura. However, her inner scheming was cut off when someone else released a soft sigh.
"I'm guessing this is a bad time then?"
Her eyes widened, and she instinctively turned to face the owner of the voice. Brown met lavender, and Tenten's breath hitched as she stared at the familiar man in front of her.
Hyuuga Neji thought he was ready for this.
He had it all staged, yes, and everyone he knew helped and did their parts flawlessly. Hell, he planned for this moment for months, starting on the day he left for Suna to attend his training! He even formulated Plans A to Z, just so he wouldn't fail in this mission like he did way back in high school!
So why, he thought glumly as he stared at her, did he suddenly feel all panicky and tensed and shaky? It was almost as if all his carefully laid out plans went whoosh out of the window the moment he and Tenten shared eye contact. And maybe... just maybe, said plans really did disintegrate into fine dust. For why was he suddenly tongue-tied and unsure of what to do next?
To cover his uneasiness, he coughed and motioned to the empty space next to her. "May I?"
Tenten mutely nodded, and she scooted as far away from him as possible, although she did try her best not to make it look so obvious. But he was Hyuuga Neji, and his eyes were sharp. He frowned slightly at Tenten's discomfort and made sure to keep a good distance from her as he sat, unless he wanted to scare her.
Silence followed, but judging by the way Tenten fidgeted in her seat, Neji knew that the girl was about to break the quietness.
"You didn't tell me you were back already!" Tenten blurted out, and her eyes widened at what she said. She hastily looked away. "I-I mean... when did you get back?"
"Just yesterday," Neji answered. It was a lie, of course.
For he did come back one and a half months ago, but he instructed everyone he knew not to tell Tenten because he was planning an orchestrated "coincidental meeting." And Neji was glad to have everyone's support for his plan – even Konohamaru volunteered for this and even suggested that they gather more people for this scheme to make things believable.
"O-oh... okay," Tenten murmured softly, eyes still settled on anything that was not Hyuuga Neji. She opened her mouth to say something else, but when nothing came to mind, she firmly shut it.
Another uncomfortable silence appeared, but this time, it was Neji who broke it.
"How have you been doing, Tenten?"
Said girl shrugged. "Okay, I guess. You?"
Neji nodded. "I'm fine, but a little stressed. Uncle wants to retire early and has been pushing me to take over, ever since I returned from my training."
Tenten smiled, because such an action was so Hyuuga Hiashi. "He hasn't changed at all, yeah?"
Neji chuckled and Tenten giggled. But then, she made the mistake of turning just a bit so she could sneak a peek at him – only to find out that he was staring at her as well. They made another eye contact, and Tenten gasped as Neji's pale orbs widened slightly. She quickly looked away.
A rustle of leaves from the bush behind the couple was heard, before Lee dramatically appeared, much to Tenten's shock and Neji's chagrin. Both turned to stare at the spandex-wearing youth, who greeted them with a sparkling set of teeth and a thumbs up. Perched on Lee's shoulder was a bushy-tailed squirrel – one that looked oddly familiar to Tenten.
"Greetings, my friends!" Lee greeted with cheer. "Lovely day we are having , yes? Indeed, today is a very perfect day to just talk about our feelings and let the flames of the springtime of youth take over!"
He flashed Neji and Tenten another cheesy grin and would have spoken more (something about the beauty of the romance that they both still have for each other) when someone hidden in the bushes yanked Lee down.
"You idiot!" That someone still hidden hissed. "You blew our cover!" And judging by how the leaves rattled and by how the twigs snapped, a brawl must have ensued between Lee and the unknown person.
Neji and Tenten looked at each other briefly before their attention went back to the bushes.
A soft exhale from Tenten, and then, "Konohamaru, is that you?"
The scuffling stopped, making an abrupt silence. Then, the unknown person coughed, and in a deeper, and very much forced, voice, he asked. "What are you talking about, lady? And who is this Konohamaru of which you speak?"
Tenten's eyes narrowed. "It is you! What are you doing there?! And what have you done to Lee?"
No answer, except for a gulp. Then frantic footsteps and a few curses followed, until it was quiet once more. Tenten knew that her brother and Lee had made a hasty retreat, prompting her to grumble in her seat.
"What the heck was that all about?" She muttered to herself, arms crossed. "I swear, if those two are up to something retarded, I will personally bash their head together and—"
Startled, Tenten stared at Neji, who was now slumped in his seat, a grimace on his face. The Hyuuga's eyes were closed, and by the way he was pinching the bridge of his nose, Tenten knew that he was distressed over something. She tilted her head slightly, silently telling him to continue.
"I asked for their help." The Hyuuga explained. "All of them."
The look he gave her was intense, and Tenten suppressed a shiver. "A-all of them..." She echoed, and something in her mind clicked. "You mean, even Sakura and Ino..."
"I promised an all-expenses paid shopping trip for them both." Tenten frowned, even as Neji gave her a boyish grin. "And I'm pretty sure Hanabi's doing crowd control by the entrance, so no one would bother us."
'That explained the lack of people then.' Tenten thought as she realized that no one really was passing by at this part of the park. But the question stuck in her mind was... "Why? Why are you doing all of this, Neji?"
She squeaked when he reached for her hand.
"I've always been attracted to you," Neji murmured honestly. "When we were still in high school, all I ever wanted was to talk to you. But I couldn't because I was such a coward."
He smiled and tucked a stray strand of Tenten's hair behind her ear.
"I pulled enough courage to give you that portrait, but I still ran after I handed it to you. I was so stupid. And I thought I deserved it when you dated someone else instead of me."
He held her hand tightly, and Tenten choked back the tears.
"But we met again, and I knew. I just knew that it was fate, Tenten. And I promised myself I was never going to let you go. I made a mistake of doing that but not anymore. I don't care about your past, Tenten. I just want to be with you."
She tried. Really, she did. But it was so hard trying to control them. Tenten didn't even know she was crying until Neji brushed her tears away with his thumb.
"Please. Stay with me, Tenten. Don't ever leave me again."
She wanted to argue that he still deserved someone better, but her heart took over, and she found herself nodding tearfully as leaned in closer to hug him. Neji was quick to wrap his arms around her waist, and he proceeded to rock her back and forth to stop her sobbing.
Slowly, Tenten tilted her head up and Neji leaned in for a kiss. Their lips barely touched before Lee once more popped out of nowhere, crying tears of joy at the beauty of the love they shared and YOSH! I really must find my own blossom to cuddle and kiss with!
Neji threw his phone at the youthful Lee in return.
THE END! FINALLY!
I'd like to thank everyone who has read/faved/alerted my story, and an extra thank you for those who took the time to review! I'm really thankful for that, guys. And on another note, I'll be gone for the whole month of November, as I will be using the time to write a few chapters of my next story. I'm hoping I can make three to five chapters of it before I release the first chapter. With that note, I'll be seeing you guys again by December, around second week or so.
I n the meantime, I'll still be around if you guys need to talk to me or something. If you want, I may help with your fic with regard to grammar or whatnot, I don't really mind. JUST KEEP THE NEJITEN FLAME BURNING! YOSH!
And here's a short epilogue, because I can. :D
Hyuuga Hiashi whistled a happy tune as he merrily went his way toward his nephew's office. Now that he was finally retired, he had a lot of free time in his hands. Usually, he'd spend most of his days playing shougi with Hiruzen at the Sarutobi's humble home, but oftentimes he'd visit his nephew's office to check on the boy.
Today happened to be one of those days.
As Hiashi continued his way to the office, employees of their company still greeted him with respect, as if he was still a huge figure of this place. He'd give a curt nod, of course, although he did not stop by to chat with any of their people.
He was finally at the door to Neji's office, and he wasted no time in entering the place without even knocking because he knew his nephew wouldn't mind (Neji actually did and told his uncle every time, but Hiashi couldn't care less).
It was there that Hiashi found Neji holding Tenten tightly, a huge smile on both their faces. Hiashi wondered what the two were so happy about.
"Oh, a group hug!" He exclaimed rather excitedly, and he immediately went to the couple's side to join the hug. He felt his nephew flinch at the contact, but Tenten merely laughed and returned Hiashi's hold like it was a normal occurrence. "What's the occasion all about?"
His nephew's girlfriend of two years laughed. "Well," the girl drawled out, pulling a brown envelope that was placed on Neji's office table. "I just had a check up with my doctor because I've been having stomach cramps for almost a month now."
Hiashi nodded, and Tenten continued.
"She referred me to the OB-Gyne!" Tenten said, her soft brown eyes sparkling in happiness. "I'm pregnant, Uncle Hiashi!"
A pause, followed by a thud. Neji grunted.
"To think that my uncle would faint at the news. He's always been adamant on us having a kid."
Tenten hummed, resting her head on Neji's chest. "I guess he's just a little overwhelmed. And to think, I wasn't in the best part too..."
"Best part?" Neji wondered, and he turned to Tenten for answers. The girl snuggled in his chest some more, before she nodded and wrapped her arms around his waist.
"You didn't see my results? There are two heartbeats in there! We're going to have twins, Neji!"
A pause, followed by another thud. Tenten raised a brow as her boyfriend suddenly slumped and lost consciousness, with her still supporting his weight. She carefully assisted him so he was able to sit on his office chair before she giggled at both their reactions.
It seemed the fainting spells were not limited to Hyuuga Hinata after all.
Yep, that's a wrap! Excuse me while I click my "Story Complete" function in here. Oh, and as always...!
Reviews/Faves/Alerts are highly treasured and Constructive Criticisms are very much appreciated. Flames shall be used to keep the NEJITEN flame burning! Mhuahahahahahhaaha! Problem, haters? :D