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Mystery Man and the Meet Gross

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“Ugh!” Ino threw aside yet another pair of practical joggers. “Don’t you have anything besides work-appropriate and athletics? Not even casual chic?”

 

“I knoooooooow!” Tenten buried her face into her hands. “I finally meet a guy I really like , like really, really really like-”

 

Ino made a small noise of disgust.

 

“And he’s just, so- so refined! And he’s all fancy job this, and upscale lifestyle that-”

 

Unnoticed by Tenten, Ino dug out her phone and swiped at the screen.

 

“And he’s so put together, and honestly it’s so intimidating, and it’s not even like we’re going someplace super ritzy or anything, just to that little cafe in downtown Konoha-”

 

“You’ve told me all this already,” Ino griped, still busily tapping at her phone, eyes squinted in concentration.

 

Tenten ploughed on, not even hearing her. “And I normally don’t even care that much! I’ve never been intimidated by a guy, or worried so much about what to wear on a date, and I know he won’t actually care-”

 

Ino sensed a momentary weakness and pounced. “ He who?”

 

“I’m still not telling you,” Tenten snapped back. “We’ll see how this goes first. I don’t want you scaring him off.”

 

“What, you think your friends are insane or something? That’s so rude, Tenten, how could you even-”

 

You are definitely insane.”

 

“If mystery man can’t handle me, your dearest most importantest friend -”

 

He isn’t meeting you yet, Ino.”

 

“Fine.” Ino threw herself on the bed next to Tenten, who was lying starfished on her back with her eyes closed. “Why is this making you so nervous, then? You said you’ve known him for a while already.”

 

“It’s-” Tenten grabbed a pillow and threw it over her face. “I just- I like him a lot.”

 

“So you’ve said.”

 

“And I want this to go well.”

 

“Oh, really? I had no idea.”

 

Tenten flung out an arm and smacked her. Over Ino’s whining, she said “And I want to show him that I like him, and I care about what he thinks, because he’s gotten to know me well enough that he knows my general attitude towards dating and how blasé I am about it, so dressing up will show him that I’m invested-”

 

Ino eyed her dubiously. “Invested is a pretty strong word to be using about a relationship that hasn’t even had a first date yet.”

 

Tenten was silent for a moment. The pillow over her face moved with her breaths. “I really like him,” she finally said in a tiny voice.

 

“Huh.” Ino pushed herself up and headed back towards the mess of clothing strewn across Tenten’s floor. “Then let’s make you look hawt. Just smokin’ .”

 

“The date’s on Saturday, that doesn’t give us much time to shop-”

 

“Then it’s a good thing I texted Sakura to come by with some better options.”

 

“Oh thank god.”

 

“Yep.” Ino started haphazardly hanging shirts back up. “I guess you’re lucky you have an insane friend.”

“Ugh, shut up Ino.”

 

“I thought you were being thankful.”

 

“You’ve ruined it already.”

 

“I’d say that’s a record, but it’s not.”

 

“Then why say any words at all then.”

 

“Because your mom.”

 

“Oh wow, Ino, very nice.”

 

They fell silent, Ino still carelessly throwing clothes back in the closet as Tenten laid on her bed with her pillow over her face. Ino cleared her throat loudly. “I’m thirsty.”

 

“There’s drinks in the fridge.”

 

“A nice friend would offer me a drink without be prompted, then go grab it for me.”

 

“I’m too busy being crippled by pre-date anxiety.”

 

Ino stood and stalked towards the kitchen, grumbling. Tenten’s voice drifted down the hallway, “Hey, grab me a beer.”

 


Sakura’s arrival helped stir them back into action, as she and Ino dug out possible clothing combinations while Tenten laid on the bed and moaned about how much she liked this guy.

 

(A lot. She liked him a lot. A shocking revelation.)

 

Fortunately, Sakura had brought a cute top that worked with a pair of jeans that Tenten already owned, and they’d moved into the part where they tried to pump her confidence back up.

 

“Well, you’ve known this guy for how long?” Sakura said in her best I-am-calm-and-practical voice.

 

(A pretty bold tone to adopt by a woman that Ino had seen punch a hole through a door , but whatever, Sakura, act like the person you’re trying to be or whatever, that’s your prerogative.)

 

Tenten had one pillow over her face, and was clutching another to her chest. “About six months.”

 

Sakura blinked. “Okay wow, so that means he’s probably seen you at, uh, not your best at least once, right?”

 

“... yeah…”

 

Ino sat up sharply. “Wait, six months? Was he there when you threw up on that lawyer?”

 

Sakur gaped. “You what?”

 

Tenten groaned. “Yes, he was. And, yeah.”

 

Sakura ripped the pillow off of Tenten’s face, despite her best efforts to keep it on. “Wait, wait. You need to explain that more.”

 

“It’s really pretty much what it sounds like.” Tenten said in a surly voice. “My department works with this law office pretty often, and they had some people coming over for something, I don’t really know- anyway, I’d been feeling pretty sick all day and then when I stood up to shake someone’s hand I puked all over his shoes instead.”

 

Sakura winced. “Oh, that’s rough. How’d he take it?”

 

“He was grossed out-”

 

“Duh,” Ino muttered.

 

“But he was polite about it. We wound up working on something together on something and he never brought it up except the first meeting to ask if I was feeling better.”

 

“Huh.” Sakura flopped back onto the bed and was silent for a second before asking “So mystery date guy saw it happen?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Then he can’t be too disgusted by you.”

 

Ino laughed. Tenten groaned and pulled her pillow back over her face. “Thanks, Sakura.”

 


 

Tenten did not come home Saturday night- and Ino knew that, because she’d let herself into the apartment and had been waiting there since the afternoon.

 

Oh, she’d found things to do- she’d raided Tenten’s nail polish supply (abysmal options, really, she had like five red ones and a single dried-up dark purple) and given herself a mani-pedi, she’d helped herself to a cucumber face mask and some teeth-whitening strips, she’d taken a luxuriously long shower with Tenten’s great water pressure-

 

Anyway, she’d given herself a little spa day. With Tenten’s stuff or whatever. It’s fine.

 

The point being, Ino had been there All. Day.

 

And Tenten had been gone the entire time- and most conspicuously, overnight.

 

MMMM-hmmm.

 

And Ino wasn’t judging or anything- goodness knows she’d done enough, ehem, tomfoolery in her life- but it was very unlike Tenten to do it.

 

Huh, Ino thought to herself as she idly watched Tenten slip inside her apartment late Sunday morning. I guess she did really like him.

 

Tenten spotted Ino and froze, one hand paused in mid air from sweeping her bangs back. Her hair was tied up rather messily in a single long ponytail (copycat), and she was wearing the same jeans but a sweatshirt that definitely didn’t belong to her.

 

“So,” Ino said brightly, pulling out the stool next to hers and patting it. “The date either went really, really well or really, really badly.”

 

Despite her shock, Tenten mustered a grin and said “Take a guess.”

 

Ino beamed back.

 

“How long have you been here?” Tenten asked, putting her bag down (her very ugly bag, note to self get her a cuter one) and opening the fridge. She pulled out a beer and popped it open with her bare hands and the countertop in a way that was unfortunately super hot and made Ino a little jealous of Mystery Man.

 

“Since yesterday afternoon,” she answered, turning back to her magazine. “I finished off your pasta, by the way.”

 

“You- well, okay. Wait, did you sleep in my bed?”

 

“HA!” Ino slammed her magazine shut, pointing victoriously at her. “And who are you to talk about sleeping in other people’s beds, hmm ?”

 

Tenten’s face burned pink, and she grabbed her bag and rushed off towards her bedroom. Ino hollered after her, “And your bed is very uncomfortable!”

 

“I like a firm mattress!”

 

“Is that what you used on Mystery Man?”

 

“No, that’s what I used on your mom!”

 

“You’d be so lucky! My mom’s a milf!”

 

Tenten gagged.

 


 

Tenten and Mystery Man continued to go on dates, and Sakura and Ino continued to pry.

 

(Okay fine mostly Ino. But whenever Sakura was around she’d get dragged into it too, which counted.)

 

They’d managed to get out that Tenten and MM (abbreviations were necessary at this point) were officially boyfriend and girlfriend (technically according to Tenten they were “exclusive” but Ino could read between the lines, thank you very much.) Apparently, they were also very committed to their careers and being adult-y adults, because they were two months in to their relationship and had decided to schedule standing date nights on Wednesdays and on Saturdays.

 

Which, hello, drudging routine much? But also, Ino was a little envious. Sure, she’d been flirting with the cute painter that came into the shop to sketch flowers and who was also pretty damn fun to talk to about psychology, but things were going fairly slowly there. Maybe the concept of standing date nights was dull, but at least it meant having dates.

 

Sigh.

 


 

“And it was such a redundant conversation , like hello seriously I’ve obviously been to medical school, I trained under fucking Tsunade , what the hell does this woman think I’ve been doing?” Sakura slammed the cupboard shut, absolutely fuming. “ How come Tenten never has any wine?!”

 

“You know she only drinks beer,” Ino replied, digging into her bag. “Luckily I came prepared.” She took out three bottles of wine (two and two thirds, really, if Ino want to drink on the train ride over then that’s what she’ll do) and passed one to Sakura, who uncorked it violently and started pouring it with much splashing into a glass.

 

“So this lady,” Ino resumed, taking another wine bottled and (classily, hem hem Sakura ) pouring out her own glass, “What’s she do in the hospital anyway?”

 

“Hang on,” Sakura muttered. “I need to drink first before I say this.” She tilted back her head and swallowed half her wine, then set it down with a sigh.

 

“She’s a volunteer.”

 

Ino, completely unintentionally, spat wine all over the countertop. It dribbled over her chin and down her neck, but she paid it no mind as she gaped at Sakura. “I- what?”

 

Sakura nodded, eyes widened in an I know, right?! sort of expression.

 

“So some volunteer is out here telling the protege of Tsunade Senju that she isn’t putting in an IV right?”

 

Yes!”

“What the hell? Who the hell?”

 

“Thank you!”

 

“No really, what’s her name because I will hunt her down-

 

“God, you’re so good for my self-esteem when you’re not being a bitch-”

 

Ino was set on a warpath. She swivelled towards the door and marched towards it, still rambling on in righteous fury.

 

“How dare she. She will rue the day she messed with my best friend - Tenten!”

 

Tenten stared back at her, hands outstretched towards her doorknob to let herself in. From the kitchen, Sakura’s vaguely offended voice carried, “Wait- best friend who?

 

Tenten raised a brow. Thrown, Ino called back to Sakura, “No, no it’s Tenten. She’s home.”

 

For the first time, Ino noticed the good-looking man standing behind Tenten, watching the interaction and somehow looking both amused and annoyed.

 

She corrected her statement to Sakura, “Tenten and a hot but kind of pissy-looking guy.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Tenten laughed, a little nervously. “Oh, good, you’re both drunk already.” She moved past Ino, her fingers entwined with Hot But Pissy-Looking Guy’s. Ino squinted at him with narrowed eyes, drawing a line over her throat with a finger. He gave her a flat look, but at Tenten’s tugging he turned and obediently followed her into the apartment (with his eyes fixed to her legs but honestly Ino looked at Tenten’s legs a lot too, so she would try to be open-minded about that. Also, Tenten was wearing a skirt and tights today and she looked fine as hell. )

 

Ino pulled herself from her musing (aka ogling) and marched after them. When she reached the kitchen, HBPLG (not her best acronym) was shaking Sakura’s hand and looking much friendlier.

 

Annoyed, Ino propped her hands on her hips and launched into speech. “Tenten, I cannot believe you would interrupt the sanctity that is girl’s night and bring a man into our personal time , which might I add we had to reschedule TWICE already-”

 

“Ino,” Tenten smoothly interrupted, “This is my boyfriend, Neji.”

 

Ino froze with her mouth open, one hand in the air and prepared to point indignantly, as the pieces fell into place. Ohhh. Ohhhhh my god.

 

She pointed at Neji excitedly. “Mystery Man!”

 


 

Turned out, Neji was a much better person to be around once the ice had been broken with a loud and drunken recounting of his girlfriend’s nervous and secretive actions prior to their first date, and Ino and Sakura had a lovely time with him poking fun of Tenten.

 

Tenten gave them light protests, but she was clearly very happy they were getting along. “She’s never really introduced us to a romantic partner before,” Sakura told him when Tenten went to change her clothes. “It was always super casual, like we’d run into each other somewhere and she’d be like ‘oh hey by the way’. She’s never taken the time to set it up like this.”

 

“Oh.” Neji was very cute when he blushed. “Well, that’s… I hope that’s a good sign.”

 

“It is,” Ino reassured instantly. “Tenten likes organizing things she cares about.”

 

“She’s pretty serious about you,” Sakura mumbled into her wine glass.

 

Neji looked pleased, but also somewhat uncomfortable, so Ino changed the subject. “How’d you two meet anyway? Tenten said she’d known you for a while before you started dating.”

 

“That’s right.” Neji said as Tenten came back out of her room in sweats. “My legal team was actually working a pro bono case with the museum, and-”

 

“Oh no,” Tenten groaned into her hands, elbows propped on the countertop.

 

“Ooh, that sounds promising,” Ino eagerly leaned forward.

 

Neji laughed softly and continued, “We were meeting with a few members from the Chinese Heritage department. It was pretty straightforward, we were shaking hands and being introduced. Tenten was one of the last people we were meeting, and I went to introduce myself-”

 

This story was starting to sound very familiar to Ino.

 

“And Tenten stood up, immediately turned green, and threw up all over my shoes.”

 

“Oh my god!” Sakura blurted, unable to contain herself any longer. “ You were the lawyer she threw up on!”

 

Tenten’s face was buried in her elbows, and she let out a muffled whine. Neji laughed and rubbed her back as Ino and Sakura cackled with laughter.

 

“That’s like, the opposite of a meet cute,” Ino wheezed. “That’s, that’s like-” She floundered, searching for a word.

 

“That’s a meet gross!” Sakura shouted, already doubled up in laughter. Ino collapsed into her chair, head thrown back as she guffawed.

 

Neji and Tenten were laughing too, mostly at Ino and Sakura for finding themselves and each other so amusing. (They fed off of each other’s drunken energy. That’s what besties do . Maybe this wouldn’t be as funny when they were sober, but also maybe you should live for the moment, Tenten. Neji.

 

Tenten and Neji.)

 


 

Three years later, Ino and Sakura gleefully told the story of Neji and Tenten’s meet gross at their wedding, to thunderous laughter from their friends and slightly horrified expressions from Neji’s highly traditional family, as Tenten hid her face in her new husband’s shoulder while he grinned into her hair.

 

All in all, it was a pretty good story.