Standard disclaimers apply.

JAGGED

By Cassandra's Destiny

.

Creak. A sound faint, distant, but still heard.

She walked to the mirror at the side of the room, studied her reflection carefully, with great sympathy. The long, non-too-peaceful years have aged her. Her usual vibrant brown eyes are now morose, almost expressionless. Her once long locks cut short, just slightly above her shoulders. Her once soft and delicate arms and hands now smeared with the smell of blood, gushes and cuts all over. Her usual smile replaced, turned upside down. A frown. A straight face. There was nothing to smile about.

And this is the life she chose. This is the life she is bound to live.

A swirling gust of wind filled the room. The wind chimes rang, leaves fell from the trees; the curtains moved in its rhythm. Tenten hugged her shoulders and shut her eyes tightly. The nippy wind has left her cold.

"Still up?"

His entrance was silent. Not a single sound. With him, he carried a commanding. And so, beyond the silence of his footsteps, never in their years together has Tenten failed to notice his entrance into a room.

"If I weren't, I wouldn't be answering your question." Her tone was faintly muted. Subdued and bitter to a certain extent.

He stepped closer to her, stopping shortly behind her lithe figure. "The question is why."

Slowly, she opened her eyes, bringing her arms down to her sides. She was cold; but to keep such a gesture, such a position, would be rude to her companion. "I couldn't sleep."

"Tenten—"

"Every night you promise me you'd stay by my side until I wake up… but you never do."

He had no response for this. No words can be found to explain his guilt.

She felt his arms wrap around her, holding her close to him like a lover, keeping her safe, like a porcelain doll he wished to protect.

"Neji," she paused. "I don't want to be alone anymore."

"Don't die." His reply was abrupt. It was a command, not a suggestion.

At a snail's pace, she freed herself from his grip, walking towards the open window.

A creak.

"An attacker?"

"No," she looked out to the full moon, illuminating the entire village of Konoha at nighttime. "It was the loose floorboard."

His reply was delayed. "That very same one?"

Although he pointed to no board, his fingers kept to himself, Tenten knew which one he was talking about. "You promised you'd fix it."

"Sorry."

An apology. An apology from Hyuuga Neji. "The fault is my own. I didn't bother fixing it either."

"Why?"

She turned to face him, settled her gaze on his pale white eyes. "Our first time, I remember. It creaked." A bitter laugh. "We thought the floor would fall down." The smile, though bitter, was something closely etched in Neji's mind. A happy Tenten. A cheerful Tenten. A blithe and carefree Tenten.

"And the night I received the news…" A single tear ran down from the corner of her eye to the corner of her lips. "I should have gone with you."

"Undue regret."

She sniffed silently. "You don't understand." Tenten used the back of her hand to wipe the tears that came. "It must've been hard. What you have gone through must've been really difficult."

Neji shook his head, moving closer to her to hold her free hand. "Not having you there beside me. Now that was hard. But I am glad—"

"That we're apart?" She was almost shouting. Neji recognized the anger and vexation in her voice.

"I am glad," he traced a scar on Tenten's forearm with his finger. "That you are alive."

"Neji—"

He placed a finger on her lips.

"The ANBU, they're on their way. The enemy has begun to mobilize."

She looked out the window again. The once peaceful and serene night in the village proved to be a hoax. In the midst of a war, peace and serenity are never options.

"Tenten…" He positioned his head above her shoulder, whispering his words before he departed. "Move on, but don't forget. I have absolutely no regrets with you."

A swirling gust of wind filled the room once again: wind chimes rang, leaves fell, and curtains moved to its rhythm. Tenten advanced to her dresser. As she opens the closet doors, she steals a glance at Neji's bloodstained ANBU mask. She closes her eyes and utters his name in sweet whisper. May he watch over her as she goes into battle… because a life of battles is the life she has chosen. A life of battles is the life she is bound to live.

She fights. For the both of them, she fights.

And a creak. Just the house settling. Nothing more.