The Anchor

Neji was never the type of person to be affectionate. Tenten learned this early on, only several months after they first became teammates. He had been injured, and she had tried to hold him, worried that she would lose him.

He had pushed her away. Even in his weakened state (though he never would have admitted that he could barely move) he had sought to avoid her touch.

That had been the first and last time that she tried to touch him with any sort of emotion behind the gesture.

Over the years that her team had been together, she learned to read him, to understand how he was actually feeling. How he would turn away when he was annoyed. How his eyes would soften ever so slightly when he was happy. How when he was embarrassed his pale skin would color just so much that Tenten's eyes could see it. How when he was hurt or sad he would activate his byakugan and stare out into the distance, as though there was something there that he could see and no one else could.

But so much of him was still hidden from her, and she doubted that he had any feelings for her other than those of friendship And, in a way, she was fine with that. After all (and this was something that she realized when she was fourteen), a ninja could not afford emotional attachments. In her line of work, there was no stability. With the threat of war always lingering in the back of everyones minds, with hidden enemies everywhere, nothing was secure. Nothing was safe. She couldn't afford to attach herself to anyone.

She told herself that, but knew that it wasn't true. She--even as she fought, defended, killed (slaughtered)--collected all of her companions (friends, family, loved ones, though she would never call them by that last one) and pulled them close to her. Sometimes, she tried to be their anchor. The one to ground Gai-sensei in all of his exuberances, the one to hold Lee in those dark moments of his that no one else knew about, the one to simply sit with Neji and watch him as he watched the distance. But sometimes, as the anchor, she felt as though she were drowning. Suffocating. Because, even as she refrained from touching or holding the Hyuuga, she felt something for him (not love. Love was not something that a ninja should feel). But she was nothing more than a friend, at best, to him.

Sometimes, she wished that she were the sort of girl who needed saving. The one who needed Neji to save her. Sometimes, she wasn't sure that she didn't need saving, but not in the way of needing her white eyed teammate to come to her rescue, but in the way of needing someone to hold her when she needed them.

Tenten was the warmth, the laughter, the safety of her team. The one who, no matter what happened, would still be there.

Maybe, someday, Neji would understand why she was always there when he needed someone.