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The Future in Present Tense

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Some people, Tenten tells him one afternoon when she visits his hospital room, tell your fortune through your face.

“What does mine say?” he asks.

He means it as a joke,but instead of answering, she says, “Some people can read your future by knowing when your birthdate is. Now, I know your month, but what day is it again?”

“My face-”

“Doesn’t take a fortune teller to read," she says bluntly, and he feels himself go ridged. Of course. How silly to forget. A seal is on his head. More than her mentioning-which even he admits might have caused a quarrel even just a few months ago- it is the fact he had forgotten his fate was literally sealed that makes him uncomfortable.

There is no such thing as fate, he reminds himself, and tries to turn the subject. “What about you,” he asks, “What lies in store for you?”

She slumps down in the chair beside his bed. “Me? According to Gai-sensei, a four A.M. rendezvous to begin training with Lee-kun for the next chuunin exam. He’s proud, I guess, that we all made it as far as we did.”

“You’re not?”

Neji’s not either, but then, that is mostly because he realized he nearly killed- but he didn’t, he reminded himself. He didn’t kill her.

“No,” Tenten confessed. “I’m not. Thought I’d make it, walking into that ring. Would have advanced too, if it’d been a different girl. Sakura-san, Ino-san, Hin- well, you know. Bad pairing, but I still should have beat that girl.”

“That girl saved Shikamaru-kun.”

“Yeah. That’s the worst part, right? Can’t even hate her, because she helped bring you idiots back.”

They sit a moment, and think about that.

“Hinata.” she says it as a statement, a pronouncement, but a pronouncement of what he isn’t sure. Continuing her list from a moment before?

“Excuse me?”

“Hinata. You should bring her to meet the team sometime.”

He doesn’t say anything, but gives her a puzzled stare. Of course, his cousin had been by to visit him in the hospital and that makes think- makes him feel-

He isn’t sure what is makes him feel, actually. Happy maybe, or remorseful, or just plain uncomfortable. But really, he’s not sure he can just ask her. How long had it been before the Chuunin Exam that they even had a proper conversation?

“Why?”

Tenten shrugs, and stretches as she stands.

“Well, Gai-sensei would like it, you know, and...” she pauses, turns back to look at him. Her eyes travel all over his face; does he imagine they linger just a second longer on his rarely exposed seal? “Hinata, she’s your future, right?”

Tenten’s fortune telling has always been a game to play by the fire on the nights they’d camped out; nothing more. So why does he feel unsettled in that vague way you do when you can’t remember if you’re meeting someone for the first time, or if you’re going to be expected to remember their name?

“I thought you needed my birthday to read my fortune,” he jokes, an uncomfortable half-smile on his face. Tenten sighs and opens the door.

“Didn’t I just tell you? You don’t need to be fortune teller to read your face.”