Question: What does a poor writer do when, after traveling for one hour just to reach the net café, plops her diskette in and finds out that her precious TFTP update has been corrupted by the Eek virus?
Answer: After throwing the stupid diskette out of the window, she sits down in front of a pc and makes an emergency fanfic, just for the sake of not wasting her jeepney fare and the two-hour trip she endured because of the alternative roads the jeeps take to avoid the still flooded roads.
Again, sorry for the diskette trouble. I will soon rush into the computer store to buy a new modem. Maybe tomorrow, the net in my house will be a-okay already.
"One more," he repeated, voice firmer this time. Her head hung in strained acquiescence, she gave him one more pleading look, and upon receiving no response, picked herself up from the ground and then gathered her shurikens once more. She tried to pay no attention to the falling rain pounding on their backs, or the chilly wind enveloping their bodies for some hours already.
"You wanted this," he reminded her, almost accusingly.
He was right, of course. She was the one who insisted to come. She was the one who wanted to be with him.
She shook her head vehemently. There was no place for this unpleasant memory right now. She was with him now, that was the important thing. He was hers in these hours, in these small pieces of time contained in this one rainy afternoon.
Her weapon aimed for his direction, but he swiftly avoided it, appearing all of a sudden right behind her. She tried to pivot around and face him, but his foot had already hit her ankle, making her fall over.
Yet his arm caught her waist. She looked back up, met his piercing gaze, and then looked away, muttering streams of inaudible apologies she knew he didn't need.
But she had to say something. She was afraid of silence and gaps of words. She didn't trust to keep her emotions in check, especially when her mind remembers what would unfold tomorrow.
"You persisted to come with me and train," he spoke quietly but firmly. "And yet your mind is lingering someplace else. That is disrespect to your opponent, Tenten." He let go of her abruptly. "Maybe you should go to wherever you left your presence of mind."
"I'm sorry…I guess I am tired already," she whispered, plopping down the now damp grass.
"That kind of warm-up does not usually tire you easily." He glanced at her sideways. "Maybe you can come up with a better excuse, one that can actually do a better job of convincing me to believe you."
Her eyes scanned the folded grass tips distractedly while he turned away, eyes at some distance ahead.
"I'm ready to train again," she said all of a sudden. "Let's go."
"The session is over," he said curtly. "I do not like to play with genin-level kids." He pointed to the north clearing of the woods. "There's a hut over there, at fifty meters ahead. We can stay there until the rain stops."
She gasped when his hand reached out towards her. She looked up uncertainly, and he eyed her with bored impatience. Hesitantly, she took his hand, and then felt her heart skip a beat. This was not the first time they made contact—sparring requires a lot of them—and yet, this was the first time that he touched her with no motivation of battle, combat, or whatsoever. And the thought filled her with warmth, even with the continuous rainfall.
"You didn't come with me to train."
She looked up from the fire that they built together from hay and his fire jutsu. It was not unimaginable that his Byakugan had picked up something from battling with Uchiha Sasuke at every chance that the two meet.
"I lied," she admitted after a while. "But not entirely." Her knees tucked themselves under her chin as she tossed a handful of hay in their bonfire. She could feel his eyes watching her, studying her face for truthfulness. She heard his grunt, and she knew he was satisfied by what he saw, yet his eyes didn't leave her.
"Why did you come with me today then?" he asked, in a tone that he was just trying to make a conversation out of boredom. She may answer, she may answer not.
But she answered him. "I want to be the first one to say 'congratulations' to my longtime teammate." She smiled a little. "I wish you all the luck and the happiness in the world…with her."
He released his breath sharply. "Must you make fun of me too?"
"Must I?" she whispered softly, watching the flickering shadows that the fire cast on the hay-filled floor of the abandoned hut. "You have been acknowledged as the strongest…and the proof is the ceremony tomorrow."
"Hiashi-sama's insane ideas," he muttered.
"But you will push through with it," she said, hugging her knees.
"It would make Father happy. He wanted so much to see his son become the head of the most powerful clan in Konoha." If it was his defense against her subtle mocking, she wasn't sure. He continued to speak. "Besides, Hinata-sama does not have the might needed to head the clan, now that her father is a bedridden man already."
"So you will marry her."
One simple word uttered calmly, only the way a Hyuuga Neji can do. She bit her trembling lower lip, and she knew it wasn't because of the chill.
"And she approves?" she asked after a while.
"She cannot refuse her father's will. She cannot let the Hyuuga clan down," he replied simply. "Her blood dictates."
"I think she's in love with the Kyuubi boy." Her eyes turned to him, asking for confirmation.
He smirked. "The Kyuubi boy does not know anything. He is still foolishly waiting for someone else." He shifted his weight on his other foot. "Anyway, it is not my problem. A shinobi doesn't need further complications in life, lest he will lose his potency as a warrior."
Spoken like a true cold-hearted Hyuuga man, soon to be the pillar of the most important clan in the village, she thought with some amount of bitterness.
"The rain may not stop anytime soon, Tenten," he said, turning his gaze outside the hut's window. "Go to sleep. I'll watch over the fire for us."
It was a soft dismissal, a signal of the end of conversation. Her heart panicked—no, it couldn't end so soon! If she closes her eyes tonight, she will never see him again tomorrow the way she sees him now: a free man.
"Tenten," he called again, puzzled by the all too sudden rise of emotions on her face.
She swallowed the air with much difficulty as her chest tightened. It was too soon for it to end. It was so unfair! Just when she had realized how much she cares for him, he had to announce to her, Gai-sensei, and Lee that he was getting married to his cousin in order to strengthen his clan's framework. He was the best that the Hyuuga has, and therefore, their only hope to restore the old glory that this family alone enjoyed.
Compared to that, her feelings for him…it was absurd.
So she had decided this morning that she would yield and give way. But not without giving to herself too—and this was it: she was spending the whole afternoon with him, and now the whole night.
She would imagine he was hers for the time being, just like when he used to talk with no other female ninjas aside from her, or that it was only her whom he would call for sparring exercises even when Lee or the other jounins were present. She would close her eyes and reminisce about the times that he stood in front of her protectively in their team's Genin and Chuunin missions, or how he would drop by in her class with the other aspiring genins to check on her even if he had his own students to look after.
They were all simple, little moments, but these moments made her happy. Happy enough to thank him that even for awhile, he became a part of her life. Even if he didn't stay long, and he wasn't capable of loving back, she was just grateful that he came…and that he captured her heart. She couldn't think of anyone else in the world that she would give her heart to.
"Why…why the tears?" His voice snapped her back to reality.
She used the back of her palm to dry her tears she didn't feel had released themselves from the leashes of her lachrymal ducts already. Her eyes maintained their contact with the flame, afraid to meet his gaze and see what they hold. The traitorous tears were enough humiliation for a dignified and capable adult like her. "I just remembered something…"
She thought she heard his sharp intake of breath. "Who is it?"
"A…" She deliberated on whether to speak now or not. Remembering that tomorrow she would lose the right, she decided to spill it out already. "A man I cherish so much. He doesn't know that though."
"It never struck me that you are the type to have a love life."
She grimaced at his attempt of humor.
He chuckled quietly, and then leaned back. "I am going to marry someone I have no ounce of romantic feelings for, and you are suffering from a love sworn to secrecy. Two miserable fools under one roof severely attacked by the rain. Fate."
"Fate," she echoed as well, bitterness seeping in her voice.
Silence followed as the flame cackled at them and their laments.
"Bring some hay over here," he suddenly said, turning to her.
"What will you do with the hay?" she asked, relieved that he didn't think of asking who her cherished man was. On the other hand, she was annoyed—she knew that getting Hyuuga Neji's interest required events bigger than asteroids falling down to earth—yet she was still hoping that he would show at least a hint of interest in her love life.
"The hay," he repeated, getting up. Sighing, she gathered the hay beside her and handed it to him, who was busy amassing them. At last, he finished a large pile of hay bed. He glanced at her again. "You're going to sleep here."
She blinked. "E-Excuse me…?"
He pointed to where she was seated. "It would get chilly there soon. The fire may not last the night."
"A-Ah…and where are you going to place yourself then?" she asked. The hut was not that big to accommodate two people without one of them taking her place now and risk getting chilled to death.
"I'll stay right here." He smiled mockingly. "You weren't expecting me to swap places with you, were you?"
She rolled her eyes, but sauntered towards him anyway. She plopped down the hay, determined to show him that his proximity was not affecting her so. Her eyes checked the distance between their bodies, and upon seeing the inches separating them, smiled in satisfaction. She immediately lied down and turned her back on him.
"Are you afraid of being near me?"
Her eyes widened.
"Come closer. The raindrops are still reaching you."
"I like it here," she said stubbornly.
"You are afraid then."
"No. I just…like it here," she said out of lack of coherent thoughts.
"Still stubborn as ever, I see. That is how I will always remember you."
She slowly turned around to gaze at him. He was staring right back at her, his hand on his one folded knee. He was fixing the bandages of his other hand with his mouth, pausing only to speak.
A slow smile spread on her face. "You will miss me, right, Neji?"
"Heh." He laughed humorlessly. "You kind of…grew into me already…"
His facial muscles relaxed. "Right."
"Is that your way of saying…you have learned to like me…even a little?" she asked, with the intention to tease him.
But his reaction was not what he expected. He froze, and then looked away, the glacial expression back on his stony profile. She sat up to face him, eyeing him worriedly.
He refused to meet her gaze still. "Go to sleep."
"Sorry…" she murmured. "G-Goodnight." She retreated from him, eyes on the floor. "A-And ah…goodbye. I-I am saying this because tomorrow you might be too busy to receive well wishes from me and Lee."
"Tenten." And once more she was struck at awe with the way he uttered her name in a way only Hyuuga Neji could. She looked up at him, only to be stunned by the steady gaze he was giving her.
She felt her heartbeat race faster, her throat dry all of a sudden.
Damn it, why is she suddenly feeling that his face was a little closer than usual, or much more open with emotions at this very moment?
Could it be…no, no. She shook her head vehemently. This wasn't helping her at all. She went with Neji to give herself one last chance to be with him, and to remind herself that tomorrow it was not proper anymore to secretly want him.
But with this kind of intense gaze, his piercing gray eyes penetrating her and delving deep into the depths of her soul…she couldn't stop herself from hoping that he would cup her face, lower his mouth down to hers, and kiss her.
Just one kiss. It's not much. Please, please make him kiss me, God. After this, I will not ask for anything more.
He bent towards her, and she instinctively closed her eyes and waited.
But nothing happened.
She opened her eyes and searched for him. He was kneeling beside her, patting the hay behind her. "The rain is starting to come in," he said quietly.
She felt herself tremble, now that reality is slapping itself on her face finally. Blood rushed to her face. What a fool she was! She nearly betrayed to him her feelings…and the last thing she wanted was to burden him with unnecessary guilt of kissing a teammate when he was about to get married tomorrow.
"There is nothing else in the world that I want to do right at this moment other than to do what your eyes say…"
She turned to him, startled.
"But…" For a fleeting second, she thought she saw immeasurable sadness cast itself upon his eyes.
The next thing she felt was his arms wrapping around her shaking body and pulling her close to him, so close that she could hear the pounding of his heart, and the rise and fall of his chest.
"…but right now, I can't bring myself to do it." The rest of his words lowered into a hoarse whisper. "Because it's not fair."
He respected her too much. He cared for her too much to take advantage of her vulnerability and start something that would lead to nowhere.
Tomorrow, he was going to be a different man. It was his destiny—to become the pillar of the Hyuuga clan, which in turn, was one of the pillars of the Leaf village. And she knew it was too much to ask him to refuse it for her. The great future lies in his hands.
And she knew when to be selfless enough to yield.
But not tonight. This night, he was hers alone.
"T-Then…can you at least hold me close…like this…for tonight?" she asked.
She buried her face on his chest and started to sob painfully, and in response, he held her tighter.
Soon, she found herself succumbing to his warmth. Her tears simply stopped flowing, and she leaned closer to him.
He made true with his two promises.
He held her close all night.
And he watched over the fire for them.
Angst…wow…I actually made a story with no happily ever after ending. Such wonders that corrupted diskettes could create… 0.o