Long time no see!
She spins to remember.
Her stance is perfect, sullied feet on a dusty floor. She has not used this room in months, and that, at least, she is aware of. Her stance is perfect, her form is not flawed, but the feeling gone. She doesn't want to feel like her. She wants to feel like him.
So she brings her feet together, tosses the long blades of jagged metalcraft into the corner of the room and spins. Just being released from the hospital -- head injury: an accidental tumble into a ravine, a misplaced paperbomb, and probably a few stones to finally put some damage on her thick skull -- movement such as this had been banned by her doctors, nurses, and friends. But she is alone, and she feels like it, so the point of following Sakura's instructions is lacking.
... Or so she thinks until she is hit head-on by a wave of dizziness. It sends her to the floor on her backside. Tenten stares up at the spinning ceiling and grins.
She wonders if he likes this feeling, too.
The world spins when he is gone, and so she feels at home.
Team or not, they weren't always together. Neji seemed to be sent on missions with other teams more than Tenten or Lee. Probably because he was a genius. Warriors like Lee were everywhere. A body of weapons like Tenten could be formed by any half-skilled ninja. But the genius was pertinant. Neji was needed. He was not allowed to be a casualty.
On the days that Neji is gone, he takes the good mission with him, and the other two are left to their own devices. They are not lost without him. They train just as long and hard. The difference with his absence, however, is unmistakable. Lee speaks less when Neji is gone. Aside from youth, he likes to talk of rivalry, and there is just no point when the rival is missing. Tenten lacks no passion, ferocity, or solemnity. She fights as she always does; with grace and unmistakable power. But there is no need to worry about depleating chakra with Lee. She uses completely different techinques and strategies with the green-suited boy because she couldn't possibly beat him (or be beaten) with the same moves. He's just not Neji.
But sometimes they have missions. Sometimes they are difficult and they come home after their genius, and he is there to welcome them home. Of course, it would be at their next meeting. He wasn't them. He had no need to wait by the gates of the village to ambush them as they returned bruised, bloodied, and victorious. But they needed his level-headedness, his unsentimantal ways. They made it all the more special when he couldn't stand it anymore and came to join them of his own free will.
(And for that reason, he often had no need to greet them at the gate.)
She doesn't remember him well because of her blow to the cranium, but she knows his stance, and she knows how he moves. She knows his face because after the incident, it was the third person she'd seen, and the first so beautiful. When she'd opened her eyes after what had been days, a shock of pink greeted her with a smile and bitter medication. One nap and five seconds later, a tall, older man in a disturbing green outfit had jumped through the door and into her face, his teeth emitting an eery glow as he introduced himself as her sensei, and how her bout with amnesia had caused him quite unyouthful stress, young flower. Days after, when she expected Gai to walk back into the room with armfuls of flowers and declarations of his undying youth, Tenten rolled onto her side, facing away, and closed her eyes. When the door opened, however, a rather different voice coiled irritatingly around her comatose memory.
"I'm not buying it. You never sleep on your side."
She blinked, deciding that since he knew her so well he was worth a peek, so peek she did. Over her shoulder she saw a young man in the doorway, leaning on a(n apparently undesirable) crutch. His face was stony, but she could tell that he was uncomfortable with the wooden crutch situated under his arm. She noticed that his eyes were white. Not quite blank, but... white. His hair was long, dark, and terribly pretty. As he drew closer, seating himself on the chair at her bedside, she noticed that his features were quite unique. A sort of combination of solid marble and lovely porcelain.
The ceramic man returned her gaze unblinkingly.
"How long have you been awake?"
"Days. Or hours. It depends on how you're asking the question." She finds it odd to speak to someone this way. Gai spoke in sparkles and vigor, while Sakura talked at her or exchanged polite and worthless small talk. Ceramic man didn't seem keen on either of those things. It was different. She had yet to form an opinion on it. "How do you know I don't sleep on my side?"
"I've never seen you sleep in a position that wasn't upright," he replied, his voice low. Not quite a nonchalant tone, but not matter-of-fact either. Sort of in between. "I doubt they let you sleep sitting up here, though, so you probably sleep on your back. Subconsciously, you're always on alert. It's a requirement for us."
"You watch me while I sleep?"
"We're in the same team. It's hardly escapable."
She rolls onto her other side so she can face him. "We are?"
She scrambled to her hands and knees, staring him in the eye. "How do we put up with him?"
"We learn to ignore everything unrelated to training that he says."
Tenten waved a hand in front of her face. "It's difficult when there's nothing else to focus on."
"We had our own strategies of coping. Yours will come back to you soon enough."
It was in that moment that their so-fondly-spoken-of sensei decided to make his dynamic entrance with soba and rice. For Tenten's energy, he said. She found it fascinating how quickly the ceramic man could escape the room on crutches.
He visited her often. She guessed it was because he was stuck in the hospital with an injury too, and they were teammates, and it was probably fun to fill her mind with what might and what might not have been in the past. By his deadpanned tone and serious countanance, she doubted it was the latter.
"Then it's... Gai, the sensei; Lee, the deranged taijutsu-excelled chuunin; me, Tenten, the walking chuunin arsenal; and you, our jounin. You must be the genius."
"Neji... screw." Tenten yawned, her most recent dose of medication prodding her toward the land of sleep. "Doesn't that leave you open to an endless realm of puns?"
He didn't answer, and she slept.
"Neji, have I ever told you that you are terribly attractive?"
The ceramic man adopted a look of faint amusement. "Aside from now? No."
"Anyone apart from me?" she asked, resting her elbows on her indian-crossed legs.
"Were they thinking it?"
"How should I know?"
"You can't read minds?!" She gave him a look of honest surprise. "I've been masking my thoughts this whole time and you can't read minds??" He shook his head. "You should have told me from the beginning. Do you know how tiring it is to mask one's thoughts?"
"Terribly, I'm sure."
She looked almost disappointed at her discovery. Apparently, she thought his eyes were some sort of telepathic device. He'd have to remind her otherwise when she decided to stop being so entertaining.
"Oh. Just a minute. Did any of that lack tact?" She scratched her cheek and glanced to the side. "I bet it did."
"You're letting Gai spend too much time with you."
"Probably." She grinned. "But really. I meant it. You're very pretty, Neji."
Being stuck in a hospital with an amnesiac Tenten was introducing him to this sense of something less-than-mundane. Neji was beginning to enjoy things that didn't involve physical torment, and that just wouldn't do.
But he could be patient. She would eventually regain her memory, and it would be the same as it had always been.
(Stirred in him as well was a new sense of impatience. He hoped that his teammate would be ready for his physical onslaught after their release. There was a kaiten inside of him just dying to be born from his body and chakra.)
"Neji, were we friends?"
He looks at her as intensely and blankly as always, as if expecting some hidden meaning behind her words that both of them knew didn't exist. She was waiting for an answer. He didn't know how to give it.
"Why do you ask?"
Tenten took a tangerine from the gift basket on her desk. "Well... Lee and I seem to be friends, since he sent this basket from wherever he is after hearing about my recovery... and he seems to be your friend, seeing as he sent you a letter sixteen pages long... so should I assume that we're a tight-nit group? Are we all friends?" She picked at the skin. Little bits of bright orange fell onto her blanket and stuck underneath her fingernails. "Or is this just a nicety, because we're two teammates stuck in a hospital together?"
Neji thought for a moment, taking the tangerine wordlessly from her hand and stripping it in three smooth pieces.
"Our team dynamic is strong and well-balanced. We all rely on each other to make up for what we may lack. Its safe to say that, yes, we're close."
"You are lacking in areas?" She took the tangerine back, pulling it into halves and giving one to him. "I just assumed you were perfect."
"No," Neji replied, moving the tangerine half between his hands. "I depend on you and Lee. Don't give me that look." He returned his stare to her eyes. "There wouldn't be such a thing as a team if there was a perfect ninja."
"I don't know," she replied, considering sticking the whole thing in her mouth. "From what I've heard, you do a lot of solo work."
"It's not solo."
"But it's without us." She opted to bite into the tangerine half fully. The taste burst inside her mouth. "Doesn't that upset team equilibrium?"
Once again, he didn't know how to answer. Neji ate his tangerine bit by tidy bit.
Neji left the hospital long before she. His leg had healed nicely, and he was due on a mission in three days, so he and Tenten said their proper farewells.
"When you go on these solo missions... sorry... missions without Team Gai, are they these 'I don't know if I'll ever see you again' affairs?"
Neji hitched his bag further up on his shoulder, refraining from taking a seat, as he would be leaving shortly. "No. You can safely assume I'll be back."
"Right, right. What was I thinking? You're the perfect shinobi. You can smell the enemy a mile away. Or maybe that's Inuzuka." She looks up with a smile. He looks down with an unmoving mouth. "Do I normally tell you that I'll miss you?"
Hyuuga Neji doesn't fill amnesiacs' minds with lies for personal benifit.
But he didn't think it would hurt just this once.
"I see. Neji, I'll miss you."
"Get out of this hospital in my absence."
She still doesn't remember much at all of the times she's had, any special moves, techniques, and quirks of herself or others. She might not have retained any precious moments of the past. But steadily things are coming back. The village, her friends, her foes, her allies. She is beginning to remember them all.
An orb of bright blue. Their crater-filled training ground. Merciless white eyes.
Tenten feels better and pushes herself to a stand. She has nothing worthwhile with which to pass the time. She is waiting.
She spins and feels that maybe, even if just slightly, she understands him a little more.
I really don't think I would have written this if I hadn't played Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm. One thing led to another, and eventually I was forcing myself to play Tenten vs. Neji on the normal setting (which is challenging for me, since I'm not a gamer), and it was just SO COOL because Tenten was so cute with her "I'm going to give it my best from the beginning!" and Neji's "Interesting. I am your opponent." X3 I fangirled like crazy. I also enjoy the team dynamics in the game. I just loved it. In fact, I think I'll go do it again right now.
Reviews would just be so divine.