A/N: What is this? A post in the middle of the semester? Shocking, I know. It just saddens me to see the NejiTen filter so inactive. So here's a story. This was inspired by Demi Lovato's Give Your Heart a Break.
Naruto © Masashi Kishimoto
Of Bridges and Heartbreak
"I would never fall in love." It was only the first day in her first class at Fire University and already, she was entranced.
This person right here just claimed that he would never fall prey to love, and he said it like people who got snared by it were absolute fools.
It was only her first day meeting Hyuga Neji and already, she vowed to herself that she would prove him wrong.
Later on, she was astonished to find out that he was a political science major. When asked why in the world was he in an Inorganic Chemistry class, he answered that he was required a science module and this was the only one that fit his schedule.
Months passed by in a blink of an eye and suddenly they were in his dorm room preparing for their midterms.
"My mom left us, me and my dad, when I was four. My dad was nearly grovelling for her to come back, I would never reduce myself to such pettiness."
She asked about his mom, she only ever heard about his father in the recent months she became his friend and she was curious. Never did she imagine the scorn that would drip off his tongue, the way his eyes flashed at the threat of danger.
Quickly, she asked him a review question which he answered in the most accurate and most precise way possible. Just like that, she turned the conversation back to safer waters, but she could feel the puddle between them grow into a river and she was desperately building a bridge if only to get back on his side.
She knew that it would be up to her to venture the waters and close the distance between them because, as realization came to her, Hyuga Neji was actually afraid of crossing that bridge and meeting her halfway.
The school year ended without her noticing it. Yet, she somehow expected, not at all doubted, that she would see his name tacked into the bulletin board underneath the title of 'Dean's List'. What she didn't expect however, was her name underneath it as well.
Then she felt his presence beside her, their shoulders mere inches from each other and she could see his reflection on the bulletin board's glass door-like covering.
He was smiling, a slight quirk of his lips and she noticed that instead of looking near the top of the list, where his name was written in the number three spot, he was looking somewhere in the middle. She thought that never had she seen him more handsome than he was right then.
She was proven wrong though, because when she finally opted to look at him, and really see him, it was more heart melting than looking at his blear reflection. And he was looking at her as well, his eyes kind and warm but when she asked if they could go out and celebrate, those warm orbs hardened and froze, steeling over.
"I'm sorry but I can't," he was polite, immaculate and curt and she felt her heart crack a bit because of it, and the bridge she so cautiously stepped on, quake.
Nonetheless, she nodded her head and beamed at him, used to his constant refusals. But that didn't mean her heart ached any less because despite acing most of her professors' test, she was far from passing his.
As it turned out, he lived in the same village as her grandmother in the Konohan sub-urbs.
She was at the grocery store and she had bumped into someone else's cart. The person on the other side was stuttering a reply and she simply smiled and waved it off, engrossed in picking up the more smaller pieces that fell from the cart's many openings.
"What are you doing Hinata?" His voice rang deep and smooth and her hand stopped in the middle of picking her pack of gum from the floor.
Before she could get her wits about her, his hand had enclosed on the pack of gum and offered it to her.
She looked up and almost automatically, their eyes had locked and she could see her surprise mirrored in his.
They had parted ways somehow awkwardly for the summer. He was never good at farewells and she was busy trying to cement the slight crack in her heart to give him one.
Still, she was glad to see him. Always was. And it showed in the way she smiled and the way her eyes brightened up at the sight of him. Before she knew it, she had buried her nose in the crook of his neck and her arms had enclosed around his waist in a tight embrace.
He returned it with a hesitant one, his hand coming to lightly pat her on the back, before making its way to her hips, pushing her back and breaking the intimate embrace.
When she was a good distance from him, his hands immediately went back to his sides and she looked into his eyes and at the question that hung in them.
Not needing him to voice it, she quickly explained her presence, saying animatedly that she always stayed with her grandma's for two weeks every summer before going back to her hometown where she lived with an aunt.
He only nodded in response and she felt her heart flutter in semi-broken wings when he looked pleased to see that she was to stay near him for at least ten days more.
Only when she glanced around did she remember the woman from before. She had apologized profusely and the woman coequally waved it off and introduced herself as Hinata, Neji's cousin.
"It's nice to see Neji-nii with friends. He was never really the socialite back then," her voice was soft and demure but nevertheless teasing.
She was surprised to say the least, he didn't have friends? When she swept her gaze towards him, she noted that he looked a bit disgruntled. There was a light pink that marred his pale cheeks and she dare say that he looked the tiniest bit embarrassed.
It was the first time she saw him that way and was disappointed to have him cut it short. He and Hinata had to go, he explained, they were merely buying last minute items for a dinner event that his uncle would be hosting the nearest Sunday and that they needed to rush lest they get into trouble.
Without further ado, he manned the grocery cart from Hinata's hold and turned it towards the long line of cashiers.
Next thing she knew she was staring at his back, his cousin by his side and it feels like he was walking away from her. She was a fool for hoping but a significant part of her had wanted him to ask if they could hang out in the duration of her stay.
Her cemented heart felt heavy and she prayed that it would not crumble under the pressure she was putting it through.
Three days later and she realized that it was a Sunday. He mentioned that his uncle was hosting an event that night and did not invite her.
Almost immediately, her mood soured. Later that night, after washing and drying her and her grandma's dinnerware, she set off towards the park.
There was a gigantic tree near the edge of it. It was secluded and at night the place was littered with fire flies that made the place all the more serene. She wanted to keep her mind off of him and she believed that isolation was the way to do it.
By the time she arrived though, someone else was dozing off already on the lush grass, in between the tree's gigantic roots, their back to its trunk.
The person was wearing a semi-formal attire of slacks and a dress shirt that was folded up to the elbows. Only when she saw the face, did she find out that it was him.
He looked tired with bags underneath his eyes and his shoulders tense even as he slept.
Unbeknownst to her, she had already settled beside him, her back also against the trunk and her shoulder brushing against his. Somehow, it just felt right, sitting here next to him and carefully, she traced a hand on his cheek. Fingers caressing him and she saw the tension seep away from his eyebrows at her touch and she found herself smiling, and her heart longing.
Because she has fallen for a man that fears love.
A few heartbeats later, she retracted her hand settled beside him. She was content just sitting there in the quiet, contemplating whether or not she would wait for him to wake up or wake him up by herself.
She opted for the former and not an hour later, he rose from his sleep.
He looked groggy and vulnerable and she could not help the tender smile that graced her lips.
When his eyes landed on her, his brows shot up in wonder but not in surprise.
"What are you doing here?" Was the first words to tumble out of his lips and he looked adorable as he rubbed the sleep out of his eye like a toddler.
She did not feel obligated to answer and instead threw the question right back at him.
She did not expect his eyes to darken and the familiar scorn to trickle back into his voice after all this time.
"Uncle invited my mom to the party and she felt that it was okay to act like nothing happened, like she didn't leave at all in the first place."
Her heart had cracked herself anew at the agony he must've been feeling as he told her the complete story. Of how his mother left and never returned. How he was disillusioned into thinking that she would come back. How he waited for her on hours end only to realize that he was waiting for no one. How abandoned he was at the young age of six when his father succumbed to cancer.
All of it went rising into the surface and a single tear had escaped his left eye.
She wanted to comfort him, be there for him but when she tried to reach out and wipe the tears away, he stood up. He said a small thank you and simply left.
When he was out of sight, she felt the tears she held back for so long break free and she cried.
Because just when she reached the other side of the shaky bridge did he run off, never to be seen again.
A month and a half passed before Tenten found herself again in front of the prestigious Fire University. She wasn't at all excited like the first time around.
In fact, she almost dreaded it. But when she made it to her first class, she was awash with disappointment because she could not see his familiar face.
It was wishful thinking, she knew. He had a different major altogether and it was just a fluke that they met. The thought didn't serve any purpose in comforting her at all. Instead she shook her head, repression, she thought. It seems that forceful forgetting was the way to go for her.
As it turned out, forceful forgetting came a long way. At first it was hard. She would hate herself when a door, any door, would open and she would expect his face to be on the other side of it looking for her. Often times she would curse under her breath for hoping.
Then there came a time when she did forget. How did she know this?
Because when she finally saw him, she did not expect it at all.
She stared at him, flabbergasted, with her mouth agape. Paper hearts and red, white and pink balloons of the same shape littered their surroundings. Spectacularly enough, it was Valentines Day, six months since she's last seen him, or even heard of him for that matter.
She wasn't even supposed to be here. She merely came because a friend needed her help in decorating her college's area in the University Plaza for the event. In addition to that, she looked silly. Her plain white shirt was artfully splattered with red and pink paint, her right cheek sported a bright purple heart and her hair had red and white streamers tied to it.
He, on the other hand, had unusually tied his hair at the nape of his neck, a similar blue heart hastily painted on his left cheek. There were some brush strokes of paint of the same color on his neck and collar that showed some struggle. She think the obnoxious blonde, whose right eye was painted over by an orange star and arguing with someone from the College of Commerce's booth, was the culprit for the murderous look that marred the Hyuga's handsome face.
When he spotted her, it seemed that it took a moment to process it, for his face turned blank and he merely stared. The next second, he was already marching over, deaf to his blonde companion's wails.
"It's been a while," he was the first to speak and she was surprised to see him cross that shaky bridge over the angry ocean that has come between them.
Nonetheless, like clockwork, a smile had appeared on her face and with her tact of a sledgehammer, she had recalled out loud the last time they spoke.
As the mention of his mom had left her lips, a fear had crawled at the nape of her neck. Because she didn't know what would happen if he would run away the second time, not when her heart had just pieced itself together.
To her surprise, he smiled it away - but it did not give her the same comfort it did before, for the reason that, after all this time spent separated, she could still read him like an open book. And what she saw was the same fear and anger that creeped up the cracks in his formidable persona.
She suppressed the urge to envelope him in a hug, knowing that nothing good would come from physical intimacy with this man.
She steered them towards the corner of the plaza, where the university's infamous Lover's Lane started.
The walkway, diverged into three other paths, was surrounded by trees where lights were strung, in addition to the baroque-style lamp posts illuminating the place. They sat on one of the many benches theat lined it.
She made small talk, asking him how he was. He replied in the same manner, curt and polite and likewise asked her about her well-being and she answered as well.
Small talk can only go so far though, and sooner than she would have liked, silence had encased them, each lost in their own thoughts.
"I won't hurt you," it was so sudden, so out of the blue. He was staring at her, eyes wide with shock. When he opened his mouth to say something, only then did she realize that the words had come out of her lips.
For the first time, her heart got the better of her.
Then she was uttering uncontrollably. Stammering here and there, her heart not used to speaking, verbalizing, what it had always wanted to express.
And while she was speaking her heart out, his eyes had returned to its original size. A hand had placed itself over hers, stunning her momentarily into silence.
She looked up and was surprised to find his face mere inches from hers. His eyes were locked on her own and she could see the lightest lavanders of his pupils. The hand that was over hers had travelled and rested on her neck, pulling her even more closer. Close enough that she could feel his breath on her painted cheek.
He was still looking at her tenderly as he maintained that position.
They broke eye contact when he closed his eyes and leaned in, to touch his forehead against hers.
She heard him speak in whispers, felt his breath on her lips. She opened her eyes, not even aware that she closed them at all and she was surprised to find a hand, her hand, was caressing his unpainted cheek.
He was saying something and she refused to hear it.
"I'm sorry," and next thing she knew, he was withdrawing and then he was gone. She was once again left alone, but this time she was drowning in still waters, her tears remaining unheard.
Maybe she was a masochist. How else would she explain the way she was. She knew she would be hurt the first time she met him, yet she ventured on, not anymore noticing the shattered pieces her heart had been reduced to once again after more than six months of painstakingly piecing it back together.
On White Day, she found three roses, each a different color, in the welcoming mat of her dorm. Which was odd, because she never gave anyone anything on Valentines Day.
She first examined the white rose and the note that was strung to it on a white card. In beautiful calligraphy was two words, "I'm sorry."
For the first time since that night when she was alone surrounded by trees, she felt her heart beat inside her chest.
She examined the next rose, a yellow one. Written in a similar white card and gorgeous calligraphy, "I wish you happiness."
Her breath hitched in her throat and she couldn't breathe. This awfully sounded the same as goodbye.
Hands trembling, she lifted the last rose, the red rose. Like the others, there was a similar white card attached to it, but this one had a golden string.
Willing her rapid heartbeat to still, she opened the card and a tear made its way down her cheek and she gave a heart wrenching breathless laugh.
"Please take care of my heart."
A/N: Hope you enjoyed it. Leave a review!
I based the landscape of the university to the one I attend, if Lover's Lane and Plaza Mayor is familiar to you.