Author's Note: This is my official farewell to the world of Naruto. It's been a great ride and I have met some truly fantastic people because of this fandom. My writing has grown and I have grown as a person as well, just from being able to say I was a fan of this wonderful series. Though my interests have turned to original writing, I thank each and every one of you for supporting me and my works for the last fourteen years - some of you having stuck with me all the way back from my Gundam Wing escapades. I'm truly blessed to have been able to meet and converse with so many of you. So long and thanks for all the fish.
WARNINGS: I'm rather saddened by the end of Naruto, or maybe nostalgic is another word, which is strange because for the most part I'm happy about the way it ended. If you are not caught up on Naruto, please be aware there be spoilers within. This piece is very short and has a rather… terrifying tone, if perhaps empowering? I'm not sure. Either way, this is the send off I imagined for Tenten. She and Neji will always be together in my mind.
Her chest aches, the heart inside of it a core of molten lava that threatens to burn her up from the inside out in grief-stricken agony. Her muscles tense, her teeth clench and she feels heartfire rising behind her eyes, tastes ash in her mouth. She's flame, the incandescent flare that feels too much, feels everything.
Tenten closes her eyes and lets herself be consumed.
Sakura has seen it before. The look of someone screaming without making a sound. She sees it now on Tenten's face and wonders if anyone else there can see the flashfire, the quick burn of a short life before it's utterly spent, the unending wail of hurt so deep it can't be vocalized. Tenten is wounded to the bone but she does not bleed.
The medic in her tells Sakura she needs to do something, that this moment is dangerous for all of them. She wants to yell that even though Tenten is standing there, right there, they are losing her. In a moment she'll be gone, she'll be-
Tenten takes a step forward and everyone stills, holds their breath. They watch as she slowly comes to stand next to Neji's body, her eyes dry but burning as she looks down at him. Sakura had turned him over so the great wounds in back were not visible but it is still clear that his death had been violent. His clothes are torn and splattered with blood but Tenten ignores this, her gaze resting on the clear expanse of his forehead. She stares at it for ages, for seconds, and then she reaches down and pulls a kunai from the pouch at her waist.
Everyone tenses at the appearance of a weapon, everyone there knew what Tenten could do with one, but no one, it seems, had the will to speak. It is obvious that this is a private moment, that standing there, on that battlefield, there is only truly Tenten and Neji.
Tenten lifts the kunai with one hand and with her other she grips the long fall of her hair that had freed itself of its usual buns during battle. Without hesitation, she slices through her hair close up by her neck, cutting it all off a few inches above her shoulders and gently drops the long tail of it on Neji's chest.
"Wait for me," she says, and her voice is full of broken glass and shards of grief.
And then she is gone.
Tenten barely notices the soft curls of dark hair that now flutter into her eyes with the wind. It had been important to leave part of herself behind, with him. Now she can let the fire take her and do as it may.
Calmly, she unrolls the large scroll at her back and lets it fly.
"The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire." - Ferdinand Foch