Strong fingers played a haunting melody on a thick bamboo flute, half lit eyes peered with the same darkness as the song. The ancient music, which traveled through all of his clan, could only be heard from him. There was always that sense of loneliness that loomed over him, intertwined with a sense of failure. How was he, Uchiha Sasuke, supposed to continue his bloodline? This pained him much more than his haywire of a cursed seal.
It would be his last duty to continue the line, not for his clan necessarily, but for his parents. However, that seemed a bit farfetched as well, since Sasuke wasn't one to leave his child fatherless. He had never thought about his own death, maybe it was his sheer determination and genius that made him too cocky. Even if that was the case, Sasuke didn't want to die knowing he couldn't make things right.
My family legacy will live in melody.
This wasn't the time when Neanderthals roamed the land. Presently, people lived in the ideas of romance and love. Secretly, he wished to find someone who he could be with someone with his whole heart. It was odd; now that he was older everything became more conscious. There weren't that many women in his life that he would consider close. Really it came down to two.
Sakura's vibrancy still inhabited her. Beautiful, smart and hopelessly in love with him when they were younger, Sasuke couldn't help but view her as nothing but a close friend. Even if there was the possibility of any sort of love to bloom between them, Sasuke's decision to cross over to the dark side demolished any sort of chance for that to happen. Not like he could blame her, she saw what he really was.
Then there was Tenten, maybe it was her patience with the ultra stubborn Hyuuga. It was less difficult for her to view Sasuke in the way Sakura did, partially because seeing is harder than hearing. With his former team busy with missions, it was (unknowingly) easy for him to find solace in Tenten. She was comforting, approachable and warm.
Her love for Hyuuga…
His thoughts went back to Lee asking him to take care of Tenten despite knowing that she was supposed to watch him as part of her mission. The flower of Team Gai getting plucked in a painfully slow game of "He loves me, he loves me not." If something didn't happen soon, all that would be left of the flower would be a stem with petals withering on the ground.
She held herself in her arms as she walked with a surreal aura up the stairs.
"Thank you, for putting up with me."
It was normal for her to get annoyed with Neji. However, this was the first time he put forth any sort of acknowledgement.
The first time he ever gave this kind of appreciation.
Tenten wasn't about to delude herself into thinking that Neji was in love with her. It was just a hug, something that people generally give to their friends. At the same time, she would have been lying if she denied any of the emotions stirring inside of her.
I can't keep doing this…
Her thoughts were interrupted by a soft string of notes enchanting her ears. Inquiring where this mysterious sound came from, she followed, surprisingly realizing that it came from the open window of her apartment. She didn't want it to stop, this beautiful sound, her back facing the window; Tenten listened with her eyes closed.
I never knew he could play so beautifully.
He already knew she was outside. It was certainly peculiar that he had started to sense Tenten without having to detect her chakra and today was no exception. Realizing that she was enjoying his flute playing, Sasuke continued.
This isn't about my promise to Lee.
His dark eyes slid to the window's direction.
It's just different from that.
Normally he played his flute when he was in deep thought.
This is for her…
She didn't want it to stop, but alas good things always came to an end. With the click of doorknob, Tenten stepped back into her home with the dark eyes of Sasuke staring at her.
"I didn't know you played the flute," she said to him cheerfully as she sat next to him. Her eyes watched as he turned his head towards the wind instrument in an indifferent glance.
"My mother taught me how to play," his response filled with a quiet remorse. "She gave me this flute as a gift the day before my brother massacred my clan."
Tenten went quiet, an unusual thing for her to do. Looking away from him, lost in her thoughts, hoping to find those words to break the ice.
Those words never came, only the sound of music carried in the air.
She smiled at him, realizing what he was trying to do. Sitting herself next to Sasuke, she continued to admire his music
He concentrates hard on the notes he plays, every note is an unspoken word. Eyes half lit side glancing Tenten, Sasuke's inner happiness began to glow at her smile and the joy of her dark eyes.
If he truly saw the sparkling serenity in her eyes…
He would have seen the emotion he had wanted to receive all this time.
Dead in the night…
It was the first time anyone had seen her with such an angry aura. If it was true, Of course it had to be true, Kiba wouldn't lie, thenthere was no chance for Hinata to calm down until everything was rectified.
How dare they…
Neji, the man who was she regarded as her closer brother, getting married to a clan who cared nothing for him or the Hyuuga family.
…hurt Neji nii-san…
She continued to feel this newly found rage. Her white eyes glanced quickly at all sides of the newly decorated room, everything that stood for something of no meaning. What good were the fancy ribbons when no one should really be celebrating? What was the point in having golden colors when nothing felt rich or bright?
What good is a marriage when it is filled with nothing but deceit?
He went into the marriage hoping to close the gap between the Main and Branch House, in memory of his father who wanted to do the same. Neji gave up many things just to have this opportunity.
Two people watched her, both in surprise and sorrow. They had never seen their female teammate so distraught. Aburame Shino peered through his glasses as he noted that Hinata suddenly felt lost, as if she were caught in a fog. He looked over at his teammate who looked over at him plainly. Both knew this was another time they needed to be there for Hinata.
Quickly turning their heads towards her, they anticipated what she would say.
"Neji nii-san has been my bodyguard since we were young. It is what the Branch House is supposed to do."
Kiba gave a slightly confused look.
"However, after all that hostility that Neji had disappeared. He guarded me not because he was supposed to, but because we were finally family."
They had always worked well as a team, never failing each other when another needed help. Even if Hinata still didn't have her father's approval, she knew she could always count on Kiba and Shino.
"Help me," she turned to them with tear stained white orbs. "Help me protect him!"
Shino nodded silently as water started free falling from her angry eyes. It had been so long since Hinata had cried. Still, this was different, she had never cried out of rage. Kiba knew this wasn't a time for any of the loud-mouthed jokes he usually made to cheer her up. It was awkward for him to be as seemingly stoic as Shino always was, Kiba visually hated the feeling of watching his teammate so upset.
Let's make Hinata smile again.
Neji felt inwardly nervous about training with Tenten again. It used to a daily routine. They would both go all out and normally Neji would win. Still, whenever their spars ended, she always left with a smile on her face. Back when they were younger, that action would always secretly annoy him. It wasn't something like Lee's where his eagerness was doted on by Gai, just that for some reason, Neji couldn't feel the same. Normally he would give a cocky smirk or one of the rare times where he had an epiphany.
You are my sunshine.
It always made him feel good whenever she would run over to him. They had always been close and even if he didn't show it, he liked that she would talk to him about her dreams.
My only sunshine,
He rarely let people in his life. It especially bugged him back when he found out he was in a team with Lee. Why would they want to team up the Rookie of the Year with the bug eyed loser of the year? Meeting Might Gai was the cherry on the top, his smile was enough to burn Neji's corneas. Then there was Tenten, the girl who always able to make a weapon with almost anything around her. Neji never really paid attention to her when they were in class, but she seemed to be the only sane one other than him. That was the only thing that made him somewhat happy back then, finding someone who wouldn't test his own sanity.
You make me happy,
A giggle, a laugh, a grin, and part of what he knew now, were the happiest memories of his youth. Neji touched the naked bark of a tree that he used to practice. Another memory popped in his head, one of Tenten cheering him on each time he tried perfecting the art of Gentle Fist on that very tree. No one knew the extent of his abilities, not the Hyuuga clan, or Gai, just Tenten. Her confidence in him was always part of why everything worked so well. Their training spot was nothing but a chance to work together.
When skies are grey,
Neji knew he was going to lose her. He didn't know what was the worse reasoning, his marriage to Miriko or the possibility of losing her to someone else.
You'll never know, dear
He didn't want to be selfish…
How much I love you,
It couldn't be helped, not the way he was feeling. There was no way he could have the best of both worlds. He could only mentally beg. Beg that there was some way he could be with her. Selfishly hope that she wouldn't turn her gaze at another man. Specifically the dark eyed Uchiha, the closest man to her other than Neji himself. When he saw Tenten holding a fainted Sasuke that fateful night, it felt as if he was a step closer to losing her. Was there anyway to stop it? What right did he have to prevent his best friend from falling in love with another man? Still, he couldn't stop grimacing, as he silently cursed his thoughts.
Please don't take my sunshine away.
Rock Lee watched his teammate from the tall trees.
This is what Gai-sensei meant when he always talks about wasted youth. Now I truly understand.
He always fought with his heart, that's how Lee became after the teachings of his great master. It was always doubt that shrouded him when he was younger. Not being able to do any genjitsu or ninjitsu made his dream hard. However, all that negativity shredded once Gai entered his life.
Neji, you have always been a genius. I have envied those like you and Sasuke Uchiha.
It was always important to celebrate youth according to Gai. There were even times when Lee wondered why his teacher always mentioned those words. Things other than the spirit of youth, would always surround the life of a shinobi.
Now I truly understand Gai sensei…
He turned away and headed home.
To live without youthful energy, means a life of regret. To have love, joy, and heart are all part of that very spirit, one that I will now treasure more than ever.
Lee looked back for a moment, his teammate was probably still there contemplating.
Neji, please follow what your desires.
She found herself asleep on her couch. Stretching out her arms, Tenten rose up with a groggy mind. Rubbing her eyes, shaking her head awake, her thirst got the best of her as she slowly entered her kitchen. Across from her, sitting on the counter, was Sasuke Uchiha, eating a rice ball.
"How long have I been out?" Tenten grumbled in exhaustion. It was pretty uncommon for her to fall asleep like that.
"Maybe about three hours or so," replied Sasuke, still stuffing his mouth with rice.
"Mhmm," muttered Tenten as she opened the refrigerator door and grabbed out some leftovers.
Sitting down next to her roommate, Tenten pushed a giant glob of noodles in her mouth, furiously chewing with cranky energy. Sasuke chuckled at her display of hunger, reminding himself of how Naruto used to chomp down Ichiraku ramen.
Taking one more gulp of noodles, she remembered what she wanted to talk to Sasuke about.
"Hey Sasuke, I talked to Neji today. If it's alright, can we cancel tomorrow's training?"
His black eyes narrowed slightly at the mention of his name. Perhaps it was for the best though…
"It's alright, but there's only one way I'll let you ditch training with me…"
A look of confusion struck her as the handsome Uchiha turned his head towards her with a cocky smirk.
"I want to show you a place where I enjoyed being alone back when I trained with Naruto and Sakura, think you're up for it?"
Tenten nodded slowly as Sasuke stood up and left the kitchen.
Shino snuck around the Hyuuga compound with ease. Thanks to Hinata's directions, the bug shinobi quickly found the guest rooms inhabited by Miriko's family members. Through the fingertips ran a bug as small as a pin, whispering instructions; Shino bid the insect a farewell.
It was colder than expected, making Tenten wish she brought a thicker jacket along in this trip. Blowing warm air into her cold fingers, she felt thick warmth over her shoulders. Looking up, she saw Sasuke had placed his own jacket over her. Tenten tried to protest but the dark haired man raised a hand assuring that he was all right.
They talked, getting the idea on how each of their days went. Eventually the idle chat changed to memories of their younger days, when they trained under their rival senseis. Tenten burst into a huge laugh when Sasuke mentioned the time his team attempted to unmask Kakashi, only to be met with continual failure.
"So at the end of the day, it was all a bust," smiled Tenten.
"Yeah, but it couldn't have been as bad as Gai making you do 300 laps each day."
"Lee used to fall asleep WHILE running those laps."
"Fall…asleep?" replied a weirded out Sasuke. He could only imagine how many things Rock Lee ran into while doing that.
From Naruto's challenges, to Gai's scary green spandex, Tenten and Sasuke charged through memory lane like flipping pages. Through the cold road of blowing wind, a sense of warmth filled the air.
"We're here," Sasuke said calmly.
Through the thick grass, Tenten glimpsed at the orange red flickers that filled the night sky, reflections of light danced on the small lake.
Sasuke kneeled in front of the lake, admiring the way the crescent moon bathed the lake with a small amount of white light.
"When I was younger, I watched that moon and wondered if my father and mother were watching me right then and there." He picked up a smooth round stone.
She watched the stone skip on the lake five times, pondering his words.
"I brought you here because I wanted to say goodbye."
"Goodbye.." repeated the shocked Tenten. "But, but, why?"
"I asked Hokage-sama one last request, once everything's set, I could be gone at anytime," said Sasuke. "If I'm gone before I can see you, I want to say goodbye now and tell you thank you for taking care of me."
"So, you still want to avenge your family huh," breathed Tenten.
He turned his head towards her and nodded.
"When that day comes, when I find you gone…"
"..expect me to follow you."
It was an answer that Sasuke didn't expect out of her. He watched her as she stared at the fireflies in the air around her. Illuminated by the ethereal light the insects created, he couldn't help but admire how lovely she looked.
"Why?" It was all Sasuke could muster up.
"I know how you feel, how it feels to lose so many people you love," whispered Tenten.
All eyes were on her.
"I've always believed a long time ago, that kunoichis could by just as good as shinobis, I wanted to be the embodiment of that, still do."
But you are
"When I was just a baby, my mother and my sister were murdered by my own father. Eventually my father was killed as he tried to escape, but I was left alone."
How do you continue to smile like that?
"As I grew up, I heard stories from villagers about how my mother was a wonderful kunoichi, a weapon mistress like me. Everything that I learned, were from her teachings."
As I grew up hearing how my clan was on the verge of extinction.
"What killed me when I was younger, was hearing these people talking about how my mother died because men were always stronger than women. My mother had no way of defending herself against my father."
Tenten sat herself down, next to Sasuke.
"Just fighting for my mother, makes me feel stronger…happier…"
"You shouldn't be alone anymore Sasuke, solitude's painful, I know because I grew up the same way."
Sasuke gave a small grin to himself.
If there's anyone that I would want to go with…
She rose back up, fireflies in her hair, glancing back at him with calm eyes. Her brown eyes that silently asked him to let her go with.
It was odd knowing that even if he refused to let her follow him, she would do it anyways. Sasuke knew that Tenten acknowledged the dangers of helping him. Part of this killed him, knowing that she would willingly put herself out there for him. However, he wasn't surprised either.
"When I do leave…"
Her ears waited in anticipation.
"You can do what you want."
She let out a laugh. It wasn't an answer she expected but it was satisfying nonetheless.
They watched the fireflies, a rare treat, for the light of a firefly doesn't last forever.
Walking down the road to the northern gates of Konoha, Neji found himself not wanting to go home. It was strange, not wanting to go home. After missions were completed, home was always a place of comfort. Now going back would mean he would have to deal with what the morning would bring.
Have I ever been this afraid of the future? Of what my possible fate may be?
If it had been daylight, the lines of his discomforted face would not have gone unnoticed. He was never one to run away from his problems, but for the first time Neji wished that Gai would just make him do 1000 laps. With his mind overrun with questions about his future, the thought that maybe having leadership of the Hyuuga clan wasn't such a great idea. He was a genius, no doubt about it, but it didn't mean he was suited to lead. How odd that in order for him to change tradition, he had to go through tradition in order to perform that action.
His thoughts were then broken by the sound of slow footsteps. Turning his head, Neji saw a large shadowy silhouette approaching. He didn't need Byakugan to know who it, or rather they, were.
Sasuke didn't mind being hunched over like he was, it was his fault anyways. Tenten was so tired that during their firefly watching, she fell asleep. Before leaving, he woke her up lightly and gestured her to let him carry her on his back. Initially, she refused, insisting that she was able to walk despite being so tired. However, there was no way Sasuke would take no for an answer. She slept peacefully and the warmth her body provided in the cold night wasn't so bad. He reveled this time of better moments, clinging on to the memories of lost childhood.
If this was another time, a better time, maybe he could have been friends with Tenten without having to suffer so much. Then again, the possibility arose that he probably wouldn't have talked to her either. There were many scenarios he played in his head, ranging from his parents being alive to if he hadn't joined Orochimaru. Even the idea of not being a ninja or a genius arose to him from time to time. There was no way to turn back time though and all the things he thought about were just what they were, thoughts.
His white eyes glared harsher then the veins provided by his Byakugan. Neji wasn't entirely sure if Sasuke had noticed him ahead but his eyes definitely didn't deceive him. Tenten asleep, on Sasuke's back, left Neji feeling slow sharp pangs of jealousy. Never in his time with Tenten, had he had the opportunity to display such tender feelings like the way Sasuke had just now.
The footsteps stopped as Neji continued to glare.
His long bangs made it hard for him to really see Neji, but Sasuke was sure that he wasn't too happy.
"What did you do to her?" His voice was low and deadly.
"You can tell what happened, she fell asleep," Sasuke replied.
Neji was irritating the Sharingan user, if more words were exchanged, then there was no doubt something would erupt.
"Don't you dare hurt her," it was the only thing that Neji could think of saying.
He could hear a deep chuckle coming from him, as if something Neji said tickled his funny bone. Obviously the statement itself was foolish, he knew Sasuke was fond of Tenten much like he was, but to what extent, he didn't know. They way she softly slept on his shoulders, how close they were, everything about this scene hurt him to the core. For the first time in their friendship, he had finally given Tenten a hug and Sasuke managed to comfortably carry her already.
Like the swift wind, he felt them pass by.
"The only hurt she's felt came from your neglect."
Neji couldn't move.
It was odd that he would say that to Neji Hyuuga through his anger that he would actually hurt Tenten in anyway. That reply that personified presently everything about Tenten and Neji's friendship. Sasuke couldn't help but solemnly admit that he was a hypocrite for doing the same to Sakura and Naruto. Those words that he passed down to Neji, were probably as painful to him as they were to Sasuke.
Maybe there was a mild guilt factor for thinking that Tenten should remove Neji from her life and start anew. Sasuke would have been lying if he said that he wasn't developing feelings for her, from the time they spent as roommates to tonight's talk solidified all the emotions he had for her.
He opened the door, letting Tenten's body shift to the right side of his body. Slowly entering the empty apartment, he found his way to her room. Gently placing her on her bed, Sasuke carefully took the blanket under her, placing it over her. Sitting beside her bed, he found himself wishing that he hadn't agreed to allow her to come with. That was all said and done though, the only thing he could hope for was to be far away enough so she couldn't catch up.
There was a thought that struck him awhile back, something he said to her back when she received the invitation to attend the engagement party.
"…when I wondered if you were fated to lose Hyuuga…"
He knew who she was, what kind of person shined behind steel weapons.
"I was wrong…."
Maybe it was his own experience that he placed upon Neji, but it didn't matter.
"…he was fated to lose you, all this time."
With that, Sasuke placed a soft kiss on Tenten's forehead, letting it linger there. His heart beating faster, Sasuke left her room.
He loved her.
Sasuke knew that Neji loved her too.
They were both gifted with the ability of special sight, only to be blind to those who cared for them.
NOTES: AUUUUGH SO THIS IS FINALLY DONE. Thank goodness, I thought I was going to die. Anyways, some explanations: fireflies are also called lightning bugs, take that into consideration. I used that lullaby (which is actually a song, doesn't belong to me obviously about Louisiana.) as a way to reference as to how torn Neji is. It's a bunch of dilemmas. The flute thing came from a couple of pictures Kishimoto drew of Sasuke playing one. I will say though, I do seem to notice that the chapters involving Sasuke/Tenten seem to be the less popular ones (well of course, most people like Neji/Tenten.) I thought I could play with that statement about losing someone due to fate. (Thanks wildcatt for pointing that out.) Hopefully this'll cause a little more stew in the pot if you know what I mean! Anyways, REVIEW! God knows how much I love it when people review!