Summary: As Tenten recuperates from a life-threatening mission, who'll be there to help her remember?
Author's Note: Yep, it's me, back with another Neji x Tenten oneshot. Sorry if you guys are tired of me by now… haha. This piece is actually a spin-off of Unsaid Sentiments, if you could recall. But if you haven't read it, there's no need to go back to it. I would be very pleased if you did, though.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
She didn't remember dying.
That was why every time she painstakingly forced her eyes open, moved her hands, or drew in a deep breath, ignoring the pain that made her far from numb, she wondered if she had passed from life into that transcendent ending, death. If she had, she didn't remember how she died; she didn't remember why.
She barely even remembered her own name. As she looked down at herself, at the white hospital robes she wore; at the white bedspread and the white pillowcases; at the white walls and the white curtain that surrounded her four-poster bed; and even at the sallow gray sky beyond the white windowsill, she knew nothing of her own identity, of her own soul. There was nothing around her that could remind her, either.
But if she didn't remember these things, there was one thing she did remember: the white-hot pain that coursed throughout her. The extreme pain, she held in her memory forever, though reluctantly. The sheer, slow, ripping torture clawed at her inside and out; she could not have forgotten it whether she wished it or not. Each ripple of it taught her that she needed to stay strong, she needed to get up, if only to be void of the crippling sensations that rifled through her.
But worse than everything was the agony of knowing she didn't remember his name.
Day after day, he came to her bedside, saying nothing except words that comforted her to the utmost. His voice was gentle yet firm, paradoxical yet irksomely familiar. His touch – his touch was warm, most of the time; other times, his hands shook with fear – fear of what, though? And his eyes… they were a clear, pallid blue-gray, almost opalescent when the fluorescent lights were turned off and the moon was left to its own devices in lighting the place.
Those eyes troubled her. Sometimes, she would say nothing as he sat there, instead gazing into them – and he would let her. He never turned away, never thought her behavior strange in the least. They sat there for minutes at a time, merely staring into each other's eyes. A few times, she thought that as she lost herself into them, she would be able to remember. She knew that somehow, they would tell her, as they told her many things about him.
When he was sad, they told her. Often she longed to tell him how glad she was that he came, that he was there, comforting her and easing her pain. She wanted nothing more than to embrace him, no matter how much it hurt the both of them, and thank him for staying. But somehow, she had neither the words nor the courage to put her thoughts to action. Worse still was the fact that every time she tried to say "thank you" she would be unable to attach a name to it. She was angry with herself, angry at forgetting his name. For some reason, she knew that over and above remembering her own name, she ought to have remembered his. His eyes always dulled with the disappointment of her forgetfulness.
When he was angry, they told her. She was never on the receiving end of his fury, though, more often than not, she caused it. His frustrations, she supposed, drove him to the occasional raised voice and harsh tones. Still, he never spoke to her that way – no matter how painful it must be for her to forget who he was and how they were together; no matter how torturous it must be on him, sitting there each and every day with her in a seemingly eternal vigil.
When he was happy, they told her. Barely ever did she see him smile, and on the rare occasions he did, it would be a sad, sardonic half-smile when she asked him if he was all right. But each morning, when she woke up to find him still awake at her bedside, he would be happy. He wouldn't smile – no; dawn seemed too early to smile. There would instead be a strange, bright quality to his eyes that was hard to explain. She came to cherish that little sparkle, and struggled to become ever stronger to keep seeing that same spark.
He kept her strong.
Once, she awoke in the middle of the night to find him asleep at her bedside, his head resting on his arms on the bed. Some of his long dark hair spilled across his pale face, and she dared to reach out and gently brush the stray strands away. The moonbeams were only too soft, only too beautiful. They cast a mystical air over that night, and woke him at her touch. His eyes opened slowly to see her, and he sat up on his chair.
"Tenten, you're not supposed to be awake at this hour. You need your rest. Go back to sleep," he said calmly, trying to ease her back into sleep.
So that was her name: Tenten.
The next few days passed, and she saw less of him. The nurses said he had important business to attend to, things that would not allow delays. Missions – they said something about missions. For a reason she didn't quite understand, she found herself worried, scared even, at the thought. But whenever she voiced this to them, they would titter girlishly among themselves and promise her that he was fully capable of his job. She looked back at them puzzled.
He would always come back. At the end of each day, it was as if he saw to it to come see how she was. It was then that she realized that he had his own life to live, and that it was selfish to have wished to have him forever there by her side. On these visits she would reassure him she would soon be better, and that he didn't have to come so often. Saying it hurt her, but she knew she had no control over his life.
"You're the only reason I've come so far. I'm not leaving you for the world," he answered seriously, before turning to go. With his back turned, he promised, "I'll be back tomorrow."
Soon, it would empty. The hospital wing would hollow without him – void of any meaning. His words – his voice – pressed both her mind and her heart, driving her to tears as his hand was poised in midair, above the doorknob, ready to leave. Tears fell from her brown eyes, as she searched for something – anything, anything that would make him stay, that would make her understand.
"I love you, Neji," she whispered.
He froze at the sound of his name and the words he had not expected, so long out of her reach. Her eyes turned up towards him, and he gazed back at her. For the longest time, longer than any of the other times they had before stared into each other's eyes, they stood there. She was unsure of much of what had happened before she entered the hospital, but she knew this: she loved him, and she was ashamed that it took her so long to say so.
He returned to the bed, drew her close to him, and in the silence they stayed. She gripped his shirt tightly, as if letting go would be once again releasing into oblivion all the memories she had finally grasped. He, too, clung to her, afraid of losing her again. It was what they feared above all else: losing each other.
Maybe someday, she thought, I'll remember. But for tonight, this is enough.
Author's Notes: Yes, corny, I know, so sorry, wah! Please forgive the angst-ridden dramatics. I know I suck at it, but what does a teenager have to write about but angst? … Don't answer that. Anyway, please tell me what you think? Thanks loads.