Pairing: Neji x Tenten
Summary: Neji doesn't regret a lot of things. Tenten is not one of them.
Warnings: Character death.
Author's Notes: My first stab at NejiTen. Once again, I definitely need to write something better for these two.
Disclaimer: Um. Absolutely Not mine.
He never touches her.
It's not a completely surprising realization. The Hyuuga taijutsu—or rather, his self-taught variation—is an art form that doesn't require contact to be fatal. Most of their regular practices consist of her weaving her weapons into, and around, his absolute defense.
Her weapons have touched him, have grazed his cheeks, and brushed his hands.
But he never touches her.
She tells herself she doesn't care. His hands are probably calloused, anyway. They're probably rough, and coarse. I'm glad he doesn't touch me.
She's been saying that for years now, but then again, denial is one of those things that gets easier with practice.
"I guess, what I'm trying to say is…that, I mean…well…"
She's floundering, and she hates it almost as much as she hates him right now.
In everything else, she's deadly accurate.
Neji is the only one who can ever maker her falter.
He looks at her, his features impassive, his eyes blank.
"What is it, Tenten?" he asks, his voice devoid of any emotion.
He's so cold.
"Neji…what I've been trying to say is—"
"Good morning, my precious students! Are you ready to fan the flames of your springtime of youth?" Their exuberant sensei jumps into the practice field. Despite his usual greeting, they instantly know that something is different. There is a tightness around his mouth, and his eyes have gone dark. The awkwardness from a few moments before is pushed to the back of her mind when he turns to her, a look of forced levity in his eyes.
"Tenten! Hokage-sama wants to see you. I think she has a mission for you."
"A solo mission?" Her brows furrow with confusion before she remembers herself. She is a shinobi, a kunoichi of the Leaf. Hokage-sama's orders are not to be questioned, and anyway, maybe when she gets back…
She sneaks a look at the Hyuuga.
To her disappointment, he's already turned away.
"I'll be back by sundown. It's a relatively easy mission, you know…just some routine reconnaissance in Kumogakure," she tells him, adjusting one of the straps on her weapons holster. She sees him tense, fists clenched.
His father is there.
The voice of reason in her tells her not to give into the temptation and feel a lock of his shining, dark hair. They hear her third team member practicing diligently a few yards away, kicking at the thick trunk of a tree. He is silent, which is a rarity and a part of her wonders why, before she mentally shrugs it off.
Tenten's not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
"Maybe we can practice a bit…when I get back, I mean?"
He stares at her—through her—and for a moment, Tenten is afraid. Then he nods once, and walks away.
He's good at that, she muses ruefully.
It is 3:34 in the morning when she is ambushed.
The Cloud-Nin had expected her, or rather, a Konoha agent. They surround her, and Tenten smirks. She counts one, two, three, and senses six more hiding in the trees behind her. Whatever they're doing here, in Hidden Rock, they don't want Konoha to know about it.
All the more reason for her to get back quickly.
She unfurls a scroll quickly, and goes through the familiar motions of her weapons summoning.
Suddenly, she tenses, hears dark, dry laughter.
Ten more come out of hiding.
They send her body back in a glass container. She's perfectly preserved, perfectly serene.
So perfectly damnably perfect. Not a hair out of place.
If it hadn't been for the blood soaking into the clinical white sheets she was lying on, they would have said she was sleeping.
Shizune thinks dazedly that it's a cruel thing, the glass that covers one of Konoha's best kunoichi. By all accounts, she should have been asleep, should have been able to wake up the next morning and go off to training with her sensei.
One of your youngest! Tsunade's mind screams fitfully.
She ignores the lump in her throat and makes the necessary preparations.
Her name will be carved in stone.
She is buried on a Thursday, and the sky is the perfect shade of blue.
Neji hates this.
Around him, there are mourners. The Rookie 9 stand with various degrees of reverence, and even the Inuzuka's mutt is subdued. Lee is clenching his fists so hard that the nails of his fingers bite in, and he bleeds red. Gai-sensei is trying to be strong, but every now and then, Neji catches him wiping at the corner of his eyes. He is a bit surprised to see how many people have turned up.
He even more surprised to feel a twinge of remorse. He'd never really known Tenten, not really, anyway. In the few instances they'd talked about things other than missions, he'd never thought to ask her about her favorite color, the kinds of things she did when she wasn't training…
He'd never even touched her. Even now when he finally tries, he only feels the smooth, cold glass.
Neji does not regret a lot of things, but Tenten is not one of them.
Oi. What is it with me and the needless angst…
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