lacewood: (Default)
Pei Yi ([personal profile] lacewood) wrote in [community profile] toxicskyremix2005-08-29 10:18 am
Entry tags:

naruto - pavement

For [ profile] angels_requiem

She does not run into him so much as she spots him coming halfway down the village's Main Street. She stops so abruptly that an old woman with a bag full of tinned food walks right into her, then stomps away still scolding after Tenten has helped her pick her shopping up again. When Tenten finally straightens and looks back down the street again, she knows he's seen her because he hasn't moved.

He probably saw her before she saw him, because that's how it's always been. Her paper-wrapped package crackles in her hands. Loosening her grip, she studies his back, sighs, and crosses the street.

He turns before she can call him. For a moment, they stand, four feet apart exactly.

He raises his chin just enough to acknowledge her presence. "Tenten."

She shifts her weight, one foot to the other. "Neji," she returns. "It's been a while." (Only three weeks, actually, since Lee dragged them both out for lunch.)

He is silent, and the minutes tick past until Tenten finally gives in, because she always does; she doesn't have his goddamned patience. "I heard about your engagement. Congratulations," she says.

He is still, so still that she knows she's surprised him. "Ah," he manages.

She thinks of walking away, but this time, he speaks first. "My family arranged it."

It is not an excuse. They know he can refuse; even the Hyuuga have changed enough that no one would force him to it, however much they desired the marriage.

"I thought they did," she agrees.

"Lee says that you're taking your jounin test in two months," he says. Now it's her turn to blink.

"Yes, Gai-sensei thinks I'm ready and should pass easily," she says.

He nods. "You should."

She blinks again and almost opens her mouth to ask if his impending marriage has changed him so much already; his wife might not find it impossible to live with him after all. "How are the Anbu?" she asks instead.

"We've been busy, but it's going well."

"Your wife will be lucky if she gets to see you once a week," she says, smiling, and there is no rancour in the comment.

"I'm sure she'll understand," Neji says, stiff, and Tenten can't help it, she laughs.

He gives her the disapproving look she knows he uses when someone's stumped him for words, and her smile spreads into a grin.

"Tell her to come to Lee and me for tips if the first few weeks don't drive her mad first," she adds.

He frowns. "That won't be necessary," he says.

"Not even if we promise not to tell her about the brothel incident?" Tenten teases and he actually flushes a dull red. Against his flush, the faint, pale scar along his jawline grows clear.

How many years has it been already?

Before she realises, she reaches out and takes his chin in her hand, her thumb running along the curving white.

"It still hasn't faded," she says, then draws her hand away. He catches her wrist.

"I don't think it will," he says, and she thinks of his face in her hands as she struggled to stitch the cut on his cheek shut; the feel of the needle passing through skin, slippery with blood.

You shouldn't have done that, it was stupid, it almost jeopardised the mission, I wouldn't have been badly hurt, she'd said, over and over until she bit the thread and dropped the needle into the grass with shaking hands.

I know, he'd said and she'd almost hit him. And then he'd kissed her.

Looking back, it should seem ridiculous; she swallows and thinks she tastes his blood still.

"Take good care of her," she says, and he releases her wrist.

He opens his mouth, pauses. "I know," he finally says, and she wonders what he was about to ask, but doesn't press him.

She knows that he will protect her the way Tenten could never be protected; she hopes it will be enough, or at least a place for them to begin.

Curling her fingers around the package in her hand, she looks away from him, down the street. How long have they been standing here talking? People are starting to stare, she sees, and looks at a curious boy loitering by the florist long enough to make him duck into the shop away from her gaze.

"People are staring," she comments. "I should go, I have training."

He nods. "I need to see the Hokage about some paperwork," he says.

"You should hurry then," she says, looks the package in her hand and then hands it to him. "For your wife," she says. "A wedding present from Lee and me."

He looks at it. "Ah..."

"I hope she likes it." It was an obi of dark blue silk, woven with white cranes and silver stars, with a hidden pocket for a small, slim knife or shuriken, if she ever needed it. A ninja's wife needed all the weapons she could bear.

"I'm sure she will," he says, polite, then pauses and looks at her for a long moment.

"Thank you," he adds, almost gentle, and she hears, for a moment, not just all the things that have passed between them already, but what could have been and will never be.

"Good luck," she tells him.

"Good luck for your exam," he returns, and she nods and they walk away, shoulders barely brushing as they pass each other by.

Her eyes are dry and her smile is shaky; the past is behind them, in a growing stretch of pavement. Behind them, but not lost, and not broken.

Just something they can live with.


August 2005