Fall down. Get up. Resume training despite how tired she was and how much she ached.
This was the routine she had come to live by. It was simple. It was solid, and it was slowly tearing away at her. The only words spoken during their intense training regime were Neji's remarks and clucks of disapproval.
They stung more than they ought to, but Tenten tried her best not to let it show how much those words bothered her. The last thing she wanted was to come across as weak to Neji, the man she was unconditionally in love with.
Yes, Tenten had managed to fall in love with the ice cold son of a bitch long ago, and those feelings weren't fading in the least. There were times, however, when she thought she hated him. When he mercilessly defeated Lee in an innocent spar and continued to put him down with words sharper than kunais, she was sure that the angry warmth rushing through her veins was hate.
When they were on a mission and she and Lee had come back with multiple scratches and bruises and he had returned absolutely spotless, she was sure that that the way her face heated to furious temperatures when he regarded them with a superior look was hate.
Was it even possible to love someone and hate them at the same time? She didn't know how or why she felt the way she did, but love didn't come with a rational explanation.
And as a part of the damn routine, her heart would ache and throb dully when she saw the impassive expression on his face and the look of uncaring in his eyes when she took a hit or hard fall. Never once had they stepped away from the routine, and never once had she not wanted to.
Her life had become almost lifeless, if that made any sense. It was mechanical and boring, and having to endure it was becoming harder and harder every day.
The hospital was always buzzing with noise: panicked voices, hurrying footsteps, and the occasional sobs and cries.
Tenten listened very carefully to all the sounds, seeing as there was nothing else to do. The pain from her disastrous mission still lingered, as well as a bruised pride, and she could do little with her movements.
With an irritated sigh, she threw her head back against the flimsy pillow, letting chocolate waves flare out along the pillow. It was a damn ambush, and Team Gai wasn't expecting it in the least. Neji, Gai, and Lee had reacted quickly, but she had been so drowsy from lack of sleep that she had taken a hit to the face immediately.
She shook away the awful memory. There had been several times where she had been hurt during missions, but this particular one was one she didn't want to remember right now.
Lee had visited her just a few moments ago, and they talked for some time before he decided to leave. She glanced to the small table to her left where Lee had set the bouquet of flowers he had brought her and smiled. So far, only he and Gai had come to visit her. Neji was nowhere to be seen.
She sat in the sun brightened room for nearly an hour before she heard the door knob beginning to turn. Her heart leapt suddenly, and she bolted up. Was it Neji? Maybe he'd even brought flowers.
She knew it was foolish to hope so much for a sign of such affection, but it was impossible to push away. The already bright smile on her face grew when she saw it was indeed him, and she ran her hand quickly through her unruly hair. This would probably be the first time he'd seen her with her hair down, and she hoped he would approve.
The smile faltered when she saw the usual emotionless expression on his face and that his hands were empty.
"You look better," he said bluntly, and she blushed when she saw his eye roam over her bandaged torso.
"Yeah," she responded. "The medic said I was lucky to get here in time."
She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and beamed up at the seventeen year old. He had been the one to carry her back home, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
"Hn," he responded. "When will you be released?"
"Tonight," she said and then paused. "Neji…I just…I really wanted to thank you for saving me like that. I mean, if it hadn't been for you I probably wouldn't have made it."
His face hardened, and her brow furrowed in confusion. "Maybe," he began in a crisp tone that threw her off slightly. "If you were more serious during training, you could have saved yourself. I expect to see you at training tomorrow with a more somber attitude."
He spun on his heel sharply and exited the room, leaving Tenten gaping after him. Her heart constricted and fell heavily in her chest, and her breathing became mangled.
So he really did think of her as a weak and incapable kunoichi. But that's wasn't what battered her heart. He didn't care. He didn't care that she had nearly died right there in his arms.
And the pain, so much more severe than ever before, exploded in her chest and ripped viciously at her heart. She was nothing to him, just a teammate. It was his duty to save her, not to care for her.
Fall down. Get up. Resume training despite how much she just wanted to crawl behind a tree and scream her heart out in agony.
So the routine had resumed the morning after her release from the hospital, and the strain in the air was nearly unbearable.
Her body still ached terribly, and even though the hole in her stomach had been healed, the pain burned and blazed every time she turned or did a flip to dodge a weapon or punch he threw.
She was beyond exhausted right now. The medics had suggested that she rest for the next few days to regain her energy and completely heal her sore muscles, but Neji had been so adamant on having her at training the next morning that she couldn't simply skip. What would he think?
A kunai flew from Neji's fingers, skimming her cheek as she did a spin to avoid it.
"You're not paying attention," he said harshly, and she ignored him, too focused on trying to ignore the searing pain that was ripping across her abdomen.
Her breathing was hard and fierce, and she had to fight to hold herself up. Her muscles screamed in protest when she ran at Neji, a kunai dangling from her fingertips. Her whole body was against what she was doing, and she had to push it so hard to obey her commands.
Neji merely stepped to the side, grabbing her arm as he went, and sent a powerful kick to her side that sent her flying a few feet. She landed flat on her back, and the pain that tore through her made her gasp loudly.
"You need to be quicker," he said sharply, and she just lay there panting.
This reminded of her of the mission that was nearly the end of her. She had been laying on the ground just like this, gasping and in too much pain to move.
And she had wondered if that was how it was supposed to feel before you die. Was the sun supposed to caress you face like a lover's touch? Was the grass supposed to feel like a silken blanket beneath your
cold body? Was the wind supposed to play with your hair in such a childlike manner that it almost made you giggle?
And while she lie there, beaten and broken on the training grounds, the fact that she had almost died hit her full force. She didn't want to die without having experienced life to its fullest. She didn't want to die without having Neji return her love. But she knew for sure that she couldn't live by this routine anymore. She just couldn't.
"Tenten, get up," he commanded coldly, and she blinked back her tears.
"No," she said after a moment of stiff silence. Her voice shook and wobbled dangerously, and Neji was taken aback by the sign of tears.
And although he tried to push it back, panic and worry began to seep into his core. She looked so helpless and broken lying alone on the ground, and he felt an odd twinge in his heart. He watched as she tried once to lift herself off the ground, gritting her teeth and arms shaking.
The tears were gathering so thickly in her eyes, that she found it hard to see and continuously blinked them away. A large hand pressed gently against her back and helped her sit up slowly. She couldn't meet his eyes. She was angry at him for being such an ass and embarrassed that he had seen her like that.
Still, she couldn't stop the tingle that ran so pleasantly up her spine or the way the heat of his hand seeped through her shirt and made her skin burn. She swore it burned straight through her skin and to her very soul, branding it as his very own.
He silently observed her for a moment. Her eyes were fixed on the dirt, and her chest rose and fell from the exertion it took to simply sit up. He didn't want to move his hand from the small of her back. It felt right to be touching her, to be near her. He could feel the heat of her skin radiating through her thin shirt, and instead of warming just his hand, it seemed to warm his whole body.
Maybe he should tell her that the reason he was so harsh on her and Lee was because he wanted them to be able to protect themselves when he wasn't around, so they didn't get hurt. Maybe he should tell her that when he was so rude to her in the hospital was because he had actually been angry at himself for not being able to protect her.
Maybe he should tell her that the reason he was so emotionless and cold was because it hurt too much to care.
"Tenten," he began, and she kept her gaze locked on the ground.
"Tenten," he repeated, grabbing her chin a bit more roughly than he intended and turning her face to him. She winced, and his fingers slackened and hesitantly moved to cradle her bruised cheek in his hand.
His eyes swept over the face that he deemed to be the most beautiful he ever laid eyes on. Tanned cheeks were streaked with dirt and tear stains, and her almond shaped eyes were eyeing him uncertainly.
Grazing his thumb across her cheek, he watched as she winced slightly but showed no other sign of discomfort. She was strong and stupid in his opinion. Strong for being able to deal with the pain so easily and stupid for letting him hurt her so many times.
"Tenten, I'm sorry for everything I've done. It's just that…" he stumbled over the words and then quieted. He couldn't possibly tell her all those things. There were some things that he felt so strongly about he couldn't even voice them. "It's just.." She waited expectantly.
He sighed and leaned forward to press his lips against hers. She wasn't sure what surprised her more, the fact that he was kissing her or that he was doing it so gently.
He tongue gently coaxed her lips open and slipped inside her mouth easily. Fireworks were exploding behind her closed eyelids, and she shuddered when his fingertips danced lightly up her spine to come to a stop at the base of her neck, pulling her in closer.
Every one of his touches was feather light but left an everlasting impression. Lava pulsed through their veins, easing them into a hazy and pleasant world. Their bodies were reacting to every touch, and the world around them faded away.
When he pulled away from her lips to place burning kisses along her jaw, she suddenly found her hands in his hair, tangled deep into the roots of the dark strands. And when he pulled back completely, she swayed in her sitting position and clutched his shirt to remain steadied.
His hand was once again planted firmly on her back, the other remaining on her neck to keep her close. And even though he didn't exactly say the words, she knew what he meant because silence had been how they communicated for so long.
Her eyes crinkled slightly in the corners when she smiled, and his own lips quirked upward slightly. "We're going to have to add that to our schedule," she said airily, and he smirked.
Who was she kidding? He was going to make that their whole schedule.
A/N: Yay. I'm done. I honestly don't know how the hell I got this idea. I think it's just a result of extreme boredom. Lol. Summer does that to me. Okay, I'm sorry if those little 'x' things in there aren't the same thing. I don't care enough to count them. Haha Hope you liked it!