Title: Tidestream of Autumn
Fandom: Naruto
Character(s): Tenten, Neji
Pairing(s): Nejiten
Genre: Drama, angst.
Note: Kind of prompted by tensquared's November theme, "First Fall" but by the time I was just half-way through it was already December. Then again, putting it aside and picking it up again let me see the truly horrendous prose I had forced on it, and to take away some of the weirder phrasings. Still a bit odd in tone, but legible I think.

(God I need to start writing fluff. That's what I'm good at! That's what I like! Why do I do this?)


They married in the year's beginning, underneath a pale sky still wintry-blue - not that it could be seen, as the rites were enacted indoors. Outside the wind still nipped, and snow lay thin and damp underfoot – it had been one of the coldest winters Fire had ever known, although still mild by the count of other countries.

He said he didn't want to wait for spring, and she had laughed and agreed – she would have agreed to anything he said, then.

Later, she lay in her husband's arms and studied the white-gold ring around her left finger. Wedding rings and engagement rings were not a Konoha custom, but Neji had heard of it on one of their outland missions and had liked the meaning of it – the eternal circles, the gifting, the binding and the visible signs of claim.

He had given her a ring, diamond-chips set into a band of pale platinum metal, on one bright fall day; and Tenten had known what it meant; she had smiled so widely that her eyes closed – the better to hide the tears.

Later she'd hang her wedding ring on a thin chain around her neck, next to where her diamond-and-platinum ring already hung. Ninja, especially weapons-specialists, needed their hands free – but she liked the rings next to her skin.

That was what she would do – but for now she placed it around her finger, watching it glitter in the moonlight.

Neji had kissed her hands when he had seen it.


Her first spring as Neji's wife; and it seemed like every small event was a milestone. Feeling the days lengthen and warm, seeing the first small patch of wildflowers in their training-grounds (still theirs, despite the Hyuuga compound being open to them now) bloom – slipping a hand into her husband's as they walked in the wakening forest.

It was a season of new life.


As the spring moved into summer, Neji had less and less time to spend with her. Hanabi was being prepared to step into her father's shoes as clan-leader; she was determined that her sister not be sealed when that happened. Their efforts towards eliminating the Main/Branch divide meant that Neji had much to do, and too little time in the days to do it.

Tenten understood. And as a Konoha jounin, part of their Weapons R&D department, she had much to do herself. There were new plans to develop, enemies' weapons to reverse-engineer, missions to complete.

There was Lee and Gai, too, to make up a springtime of somewhat-neglect to. And they were there the day Tsunade stopped Tenten in the Tower and congratulated her on her pregnancy.

Lee congratulated Neji, at the top of his lungs, before Tenten had a chance to tell him.


Their first fall as husband and wife was a bright, cool season, with nipping winds and brilliant colors. The harvests had come in and the markets were filled with food. When they walked in the parks - they could not go into the deep forests anymore - the leaves crunched underneath their feet.

Tenten, heavy with child, stayed in her rooms more and more as her movements became curtailed. Lee and Gai visited often – more often than Neji, who was busy with the clan. But his visits were all the dearer for that, and Tenten hugged the memories of his careful tenderness to herself when he was not there.

She wore her rings all the time now. Without missions, there was no need to hide them.


They'd had a full round of seasons together - winter marriage; springtime as newlyweds; a summer and an autumn.

That, it seemed, was all Fate had allotted them: Tenten died as winter came over the land again, died birthing their twin sons. The younger died with her; the elder seemed very likely to join his mother and brother in the afterlife. It was only through the help of Haruno Sakura - apprentice of the Godaime Hokage - and the round-the-clock efforts of a full team of Hyuuga medics that he did not.

Though he would have liked to, Neji couldn't stay with his son the whole time - sometimes he had to leave. To talk to Hiashi. To talk to Hanabi or Hinata. To talk to Gai and Lee.

To arrange for the funeral rites.


He was called Shen, Hyuuga Shen, Neji breaking the naming-traditions of the clan as his own father had done. Moreover, he was given a foreigner-name, a name from the Yong empire his mother had come from. A few elders grumbled; but no one dared broach the subject with Neji.

When he was old enough, he was given a present by his father: two rings on a thin golden chain. He never took them off.


With terror, with ardour and wonder,
With the soul of the season that wakes
When the weight of a whole year's thunder
In the tidestream of autumn breaks

-Algernon Charles Swinburne