My stomach clenches in fear as I step back.

Neji's eyes are wide and blank. I cannot read his expression, save for surprise.

I feel my bottom lip being pulled between my teeth.

Neji slowly blinks and his face begins to pull into a frown.

My heart skips a beat as I see the makings of a scowl. He opens his mouth and I bolt away.

I do not want to hear what he has to say.

I run so fast that I doubt I hear a segment of my name make it's way out of his mouth.


No. NO. I will not listen to rejection. I will not hear his voice say "I'm sorry." I will not give him a stupid grin to cover up my mistake. I will not see that look of pity in his cloudy grey eyes.

I will not.

I jump and ricochet off a tree, getting as far away from Neji as possible. I run faster and faster, until I reach the woods.

I can't believe I did that.

I stop and lean against a tree for a split second as my stomach clenches again.

Why? Why did I have to go and kiss him? Why did I have to go and ruin everything?

I can't go back there. I can't go back and pretend it never happened. Everything's different now, everything's weird and unusual. I can't bear to suffer the shame of such rejection.

And not only the shame, but the fact that I am rejected.

My cheeks burn with humiliation as my abdomen contracts again, and I quickly smother my mouth with my palm so the scream stays inside. My eyes are burning with unshed tears, but before any can fall, I straighten up and dash off again.

I must run as far and as fast as humanly possible. Maybe I'll be too busy to cry. Too busy trying to catch my breath. Too busy urging my protesting muscles to continue, to go faster, so I can't hear the scream inside of me.


I can't stay here. I can't stay here in Konohagakure. I must leave. Go. Go. Go faster. I have to go.

I have to get out of here.

I race to my house. I need a bag. I need some money. I need to bring my toothbrush.

I burst through the front door, dash up the stairs, fly into my room and yank my traveling bag out from under my bed. I throw things in my bag. I don't pay attention. A brush, a pencil, a lonely sock. I pull open my drawers. I don't think. I don't know if I pack a nightshirt. A bra? Are there jeans? I race into my bathroom. Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss.

I briefly wonder to what extent Gai-sensei and Lee-kun go to get their teeth so clean. I bet they go to a dentist everyday.

I go by my room again and include a few scrolls of summoning, out of habit.

All thought process disappears and I zip downstairs to the kitchen, throw a few things in the bag, maybe an apple, maybe not. I don't know because I'm not looking, and my heart is racing and as I go, the scream is growing stronger---so strong that I begin to feel as though I'm being ripped apart from the inside, but I can't stop and consider this because all I know is that I have to run.


Back to the front door, which is still open, reach around and turn the lock and grip the knob and yank it shut, because sometimes it sticks a little. I don't take the time to say goodbye to my house, I don't need to, I don't know if I'll be away forever or not.

The scream is getting stronger as I stand still, so I hoist up my bag and brace my knees and dash off into the woods. Don't look back, leap into a tree, faster, faster Tenten, next branch, leap. I don't think, I don't want to, I don't want to stop. If I stop I know I'll fall apart, crumble to dust, break into a million pieces. Like a plummeting china plate, when I stop falling, all that's left to do is break.

I don't know where I'm going, I don't know anything except I have to make the next tree limb.

I crash into something. I don't know what. I plummet down from the tree limb, but I can't quite catch my weight because I just realize how heavy my bag is. Like a stone, it drags me down to my death-crash into the ground.

A hand grips my wrist, and before I can think anymore morbid thoughts, I am snatched from the air, just like someone snatching up the falling china plate.

I compensate for the bag's weight just as my feet meet the ground. Take a breath, straighten up, I don't know whether to be grateful or be angry. Maybe a part of me wanted to experience death.


Argh…please be someone pretending to be him…

The bag is tugged off my shoulders. I am relieved at the lack of weight. Now I can run faster.

"Are you planning on leaving?"

"Planned on it…" I mutter, turning to face him.

Neji gives me an calculating look.

I decide to take my chance and run, but as I step back, his hand is around my wrist faster than you can say "damn it".

"Where will you go?"

I look away. I don't want to see his face, giving me that frown. "I don't know."

His hand tightens slightly around my wrist. Why is he holding me here?

"You don't understand much, do you?" I can hear a smirk in his voice. And sure enough, as I glance up, a corner of his mouth is pulled up in his trademark I'm-better-than-you-are-so-get-used-to-it smile.

Is he freakin' mocking me?

Why the hell do I like him!

His smirk widens as I stare at him.

A raging storm blows up in me, because he's standing here, right in front of me, mocking me for all he's worth, knowing full well that I am completely and totally in love with him!

His smirk grows even wider.

I snap. Before I know what's happening, there is a large, wide, forceful motion in my free arm and it's suddenly stopped with a jerk and there is pressure on my wrist. My flat palm, centimeters from his face, makes me realize with surprise that I had just attempted to slap him. His hand around my wrist makes me realize he caught it before I made contact.

I look at his face. His smirk is gone, and he is serious now.

But I am still angry, and I'm sure it's showing on my face.

"How can you be so cruel?" I hiss at him. "How can you stand there? Mocking me?"

He visibly flinches. "Tenten-"

"Shut up!" I yell, tearing away from him. I'm feeling angrier by the second, especially because now he's acting like I hurt him. "I don't want to hear anything you have to say!" I spot my bag propped up against his leg. I make a grab for it but he seizes my shoulders and pulls me away from it, turning me to face him.

"Wait," he says. "Just wait." His voice is calm. His fingertips dig slightly in my shoulders. He doesn't know what to say.

"Please…" I look down. "Please just don't apologize. I don't…" I swallow. "I don't want to hear that."

I feel his eyes stare at me. His voice is slow and deliberate.

"You…seem so vulnerable…"

I am silent.

I hear the rustle of his hair as he shakes his head. "I don't want to be cruel, Tenten. Not to you. But, you already know that I don't…"

I nod. "I understand, Neji-kun." I don't want to look at him. The scream inside is a spinning, rapid force in my throat. It is growing even stronger as we stand so still and he watches me.

I bite my lip to keep the scream at bay.

His hands twitch and before I know it, my cheek is pressed against his shoulder and of his arms is around my neck, while the other is around my lower back. He is warm and comforting and he is silently saying that he doesn't want to see me this weak again.

The scream in my throat weakens a little. My heart is still broken though, but I don't want to run now. I want to go home. I want to go to sleep. I want a coma.

At this moment, this is the last place I want to be.

I pull away from him, pick up my bag and sling it over my shoulder. "I'm sorry," I say, with my back to him. "Right now…it's just not…" I trail off, not knowing how to finish this sentence.

"I understand," he says, but I can feel his confusion. He thinks he was being nice. He is trying. I can see it.

I turn around, giving him a casual smile. Not anything particularly emotional. Just to let him know that I won't go jump in the river or something. "I'll see you around, Neji-kun."

He seems relieved. He nods.

I turn and walk back home.

When I get there, I unlock the door, set my bag on the floor, and go upstairs to my room. I sit on my bed and pull off my shoes. This is the second time I've forgotten to take them off when I came in the house today.

I pick up my pillow and bury my face in it.

I turn the key in the lock and free the scream from its prison. It comes out as a surging force of pain and misery. It is loud and long, and before I know it, my pillow is soaked with my tears. The cries rack my body and I slide off my bed and sink to the floor, clutching the pillow for dear life.

I feel empty. I feel so painfully empty that it's petrifying. And alone. Wretchedly, terrifyingly alone.

I'm drowning, and not even Neji can save me.

I feel like I'm being ripped apart. Like someone shoved a bomb down my throat and it just blew up. Like a thousand knives stabbing me everywhere. Knives in my heart. Knives in my head. I'm burning alive. I'm freezing to death. I'm plummeting from a cliff. Poison is coursing through my veins.

I'm choking on my screams.

I'm dying.

Then it's over.

And I am truly empty.

My face is still laying in my pillow, supported by my trembling knees. I shudder now and then, and I cough.

I decide I will not allow myself to get hurt like this again.


I will go about tomorrow as though nothing had happened at all between us.

Perhaps Neji will forget too.