Nichole's Note: Hi! Sorry for the wait! I got my cast off last week, and have been getting back into the groove of writing, haha. I know Rai said she would write this chapter, but she got busy with school and college searching and scholarship finding, so she couldn't complete it. So I just waited until the cast was off, and voila! We have a chapter!
Disclaimed: Do not own.
Read and review? Please?
"Tenten, I'm… I'm so sorry. I should have been there for you. I should have saved you."
"Please, Tenten! Wake up! I want you to be awake, please! It is so hard to try and pretend that everything is fine when it is not. It is not fine, at all."
My mind was simmering in darkness. I couldn't tell where I was or how long I had been there. But I could hear voices. Voices that seemed to be from so long ago. Or maybe it was happening right now, right beside me. Could that be possible?
"We're moving you to Konoha soon, Tenten. You should be fine… Lee and I have been staying in Suna while Konoha rebuilt the hospital. It's been a nice vacation, I guess. Gai-sensei went back a while ago. It's been such a long time since I've seen the village, and I wonder how it's changed. I am hoping that the medics in Konoha will be able to do more for you than the medics here have done, but I doubt it. No one seems to know what to do anymore."
No. I don't think so. These are definitely voices from my memory.
"Tenten, I can't stand this. Living without you… it's driving me insane. I didn't even realize how bad it would be until you were gone. I should have saved you! I should have seen the kunai, or made sure you were better protected. I failed my village. I failed my team. I failed… my friend. I wish you could hear this, Tenten. I wish you would wake up."
He was sad. So sad. I don't want him to be sad anymore.
"Hinata got engaged today. I just thought I'd tell you. She and Kiba had been dating for about… let's see, it's been a year now? Yeah. Two years since your accident. She really likes him. They look so happy together. She told me that she wished I could find that kind of happiness, and got pretty mad when I told her I didn't deserve it. She yelled at me quite a bit; I was surprised. She told me to stop waiting for you to wake up. She told me that I looked more dead than you do these days."
"Hello, Tenten-chan. I know you cannot hear me, but I just felt as though I should tell you: I was assigned a team today. They are all very good students. I am very happy to be teaching them. I also have as a student a newly interested weapons fighter. He is not quite on your level, but he will be there eventually." A sad chuckle followed. "I am surprised, actually, not to see Neji-kun here. I am guessing he has to go home every once in a while, as well. He cannot sleep here, after all. I am fortunate that the ever beautiful Sakura-chan has left me come in to talk to you. Konoha has changed a lot, Tenten-chan. I am certain you would never be able to recognize it in the current state. Everything is so different. But then, everything must change. Except you, however; you have stayed the same. I am sorry, Tenten-chan. I wish you did not have to go through this."
They were all so pitiful. But the voice I heard the most was his. He felt so bad, like he caused my accident. I wanted to tell him he didn't, but the words never came out.
"They are saying that we are finally fully recovered from Pein's attack. I don't think we are, though. The buildings are here, and the economy has returned, but the people we lost will never come back to us. I kept thinking about that day, recently. Pein did a horrible thing, by crushing the hospital. Maybe, if it had been there, you could have been healed in a timely manner. Then we wouldn't be having this problem. There would have been no problem whatsoever!"
He was angry. Angry at Pein and angry at himself. I could tell.
"Tsunade died today. She woke up after her coma, and she went for three years, but she eventually had to give it up to Naruto. He became Hokage about a month ago, I suppose. I can't remember the actual date, not that it affects me all too much. I have really just been in here, with you. But she died, and everyone is really upset about it. The funeral is soon… I have to be getting ready. I wish you could come with me. Not that you liked her all that much, anyway. I know you wanted to, but she just didn't value you like she did Sakura or Ino. I could tell you resented her for that. I do, too, sometimes. Resent her for making you so angry."
This time it was a woman speaking.
"Hey, there, Tenten! I see you are still in a coma. That's nice. Neji is having to attend a clan meeting today, something about Hinata. I don't know how well it will turn out. He seems so angry at everything these days. He's used to be so calm, but now, his anger will show through all the time. I guess it's his way of dealing, not that he can even do that well. For a genius, he sure seemed to fall apart without you. Poor guy. I don't know why I'm even doing this, talking to a coma patient never helps them. Well, it can, but it doesn't seem to help you. But I can definitely see the draw; you listen patiently to everything! Haha, I'm sorry. I'll be checking up on your vitals now…"
She faded away.
"Gai-sensei sends his greetings, Tenten. He hasn't come to see you much since you've been in here; I think it bothers him too much that he can't help you. So he just chooses to ignore the fact that you are here, helpless… Well, I'm not like that. I won't forget about you, Tenten, I promise. I hate myself for putting you in here, and I hate that you have to suffer! But Sakura says you aren't suffering at all in this state. I believe her… you always seem so peaceful."
His voice had aged. It was deeper, more mature. It was still just as beautiful to me, just different.
"I know how hard this must be for you, Neji. It's tough, I understand. But I can't allow you to stay in here any longer. I'm telling you… sitting here like this, it's not healthy! She might never wake up. You know that. So don't ruin your life by sitting here hoping! Please, Neji, I don't want to see you giving up like this!"
"It's my fault she's in a coma, Sakura! I could have saved her! I could have protected her! And yet she's here, paying for my mistakes. My stupid mistakes! I should be the one that's lying there, unable to move! It's not right!"
"And if Tenten were the one who had survived, would she sit here and mope without you?"
"Would you want her to? I can answer that for you- No. You would want her to be living her life, and she wants the same for you!"
A very annoyed 'Hn' followed the statement. There was a loud crash of what sounded like a chair hitting the ground.
"Neji, if you do not leave here right this instant I will throw you out. Do you understand?"
A door opened.
Another voice joined the fray.
"Neji, listen to her. She's right! Look at all that Lee has accomplished! He wasn't held back for long. I know it's hard. But Neji, get over it. As your Hokage, I want you to come back to missions. I'm not gonna let you sit here anymore and grieve."
"And you are never, EVER, allowed to enter this room again without my permission, understand?" This voice was angry. "I don't want you to relapse. Right, Naruto?"
"Whatever you say, Sakura."
Then, it went quiet for a while. The darkness returned. Why was it that it was so silent? Had everyone really given up on me?
"H-hello, Tenten. I feel a little b-bit ridiculous doing this, but Neji insisted that I pass this message along. He was promoted to ANBU yesterday. There is no ceremony or anything, n-not that you could attend, of course. I don't know why I'm stuttering… T-talking to you must make me nervous. Even though you can't hear me. Anyway, he just wanted me to pass the message along. I told him I would, and it seemed to cheer him up slightly. I know you can't do a-anything about it, Tenten, but he seems so much colder without you. So much more… distant. He misses you a lot, and it pains him to know you are here. It pains me to know this, as well. I wish you would wake up, Tenten, for the sake of my cousin, myself, and Lee. Even Gai-sensei has felt the loss of such a dear pupil. Well, that's it. I'm s-sorry for burdening you. Goodbye."
The darkness was aggravating. I didn't like it at all. It felt like it was spinning, but not moving at all. I wanted to reach out to these people, but they were just memories. Such sad memories.
"She's in here, Neji. You can take as much time as you want to talk to her, I don't mind. It's Sakura's night off. If she comes in, I highly doubt she'll even bother checking Tenten. But if she does, I'll find a way to keep her detained and get the message to you. And no need to thank me, it's no trouble whatsoever. It's big news! You should share it!"
A door closed, and I could hear footsteps. Someone sitting in a chair.
And then, the deep, beautiful voice I had heard before, only this time, so much more distant that I remember.
"It's been a while, Tenten. Sakura kicked me out of here about a year and a half about. I guess she was doing the right thing at the time. Now, I agree with her. I shouldn't have spent so much time in here, hating myself. I did all I could for you, and I cannot change the past. I apologize for thinking I could. Not that it really matters anymore.
"Anyway, I have been offered the position of head of my clan after my uncle relinquishes his position Normally, it would go to the first born of the main branch, but since Hinata-sama had been married, thye do not think it would be right to allow her to take over the position. Hanabi has also rejected the position, as she is not one for responsibility. He and Hinata-sama have been pushing for this ever since I came out of my depression. The elders thought that I would be too temperamental, and for a while, I agreed. I thought that I would be useless to anyone who depended on me, but I have since learned otherwise. But I began to work, and they began to see improvements. I told them I was fine. They believed me. I believe myself.
"The only condition would be that I must marry someone within my own clan. I agreed very readily. I do not like this stipulation at all, but I see no hope… otherwise. Her name is Juuri. We got engaged only a week ago. She is a good woman, albeit slightly spoiled. She is quite acceptable for the head of a clan, especially one as prestigious as the Hyuuga clan. She is what they wished Hinata-sama to be. Juuri is slightly older than Hinata-sama, and has been the daughter of a low main branch member. She is very pleased to be chosen as the wife of the head of the clan.
"At this point, I believe this is what I want. However, there are times… there are times when I think that I should like to continue to be a ninja, instead of giving it all up for a position that is not even rightfully mine. And sometimes I wish I could be given the freedom of choice back, the freedom that I had not realized I had as a branch member. The freedom to decide whether or not to be a ninja, or who I should take for my wife. But it is a sacrifice I must make, and I will do so willingly."
There was a brief pause, added with a sigh. He was collecting his thoughts. He was shifting from factual to emotional, from formal to relaxed.
"Hinata-sama is pregnant with Kiba's child. They do not know, yet, if it is a boy or a girl, but Hinata-sama is very excited. She radiates with joy. Kiba is also very proud. He is excited for their child. His whole family has taken her in quite nicely; she really has become one of them. But even the Hyuuga clan, namely her father and sister, are happily anticipating the child. Boy or girl, it will be a good kid. It has good parents.
"Lee is doing well with his genin. His last team passed the chuunin exam, all of them, either last year or the year before. I don't see Lee as often as I used to. He has, however, Juuri's sister on his team. She is a very good girl, Niiro-chan, and she will do well with Lee's training. Naruto is doing well as the Hokage; Konoha has entered into a time of peace that amazes us all. He has a way of convincing people to see things his way, and that has affected the other Kages as well. You would be proud of him and all that he has accomplished. Everyone else is.
"I still miss you, though, Tenten. You were always a bright spot in my life. But I cannot continue to imagine that you will recover. I cannot keep pinning my hopes on a miracle. Ino said that you haven't changed at all since I saw you last. She was wrong, of course. You've changed a lot, since the day you were injured and since that day that I was forcibly removed. For starters, your hair is longer."
I could feel him pick up my hand.
"Your calluses have gone away. Your hands, with perfect nails and soft skin, have changed. But I know that somewhere, the girl I once knew is still there. As much as they try to deny it, I know that there is some brain function in you. Ino told me they know you are alive, but it is just you are sleeping." He laughed, and it filled me with a happiness I had forgotten. It wasn't a sarcastic, grim, or sad laugh. He sounded amused.
"You always were a heavy sleeper."
I felt him press his lips to my forehead, and that's when it began. A force jolted through me, and I began to feel again; it was the sensation of very slowly waking up.
My eyes opened once more, and I looked around. It was a hospital room. I was in another hospital room. It was dark outside, and I could hardly make out any of the shapes, but I could tell it wasn't my old room. There was another bed in the room, bordered off by curtains.
My head pulsated with pain, and I groaned as I closed my eyes again. Miserable, miserable existence! As my vision turned black, the voices came back again.
"No, Tenten, I refuse to lose you again! You are strong, you can survive this. Please, wake up."
That one felt so much more recent than the last ones.
"So, you're finally awake?"
Again, my eyes shot open, but this time, it was daylight outside. Sakura stood, smiling down at me. I wasn't aware that I had fallen back asleep last night, but I guess that it only made sense that I would. I looked at her, and groaned.
"I feel like crap, Sakura."
"You did over-extend yourself, you know that, right? I was surprised you didn't pass out for longer."
I tried sitting up, but failed miserably. I was beginning to think that lying here forever wouldn't be a bad idea. "How long was I out for?"
"About five or six day, so nothing bad, really. It had nothing to do with your previous condition, it was just that you severely overexerted yourself, and your wounds were pretty bad. You used up a lot more chakra but received less physical damage than Neji, though."
At the reminder of what had happened, my eyes shot open. "How is he? Is he okay?"
"Yeah, he's fine. After a day or two of rest and chakra healing, he was ready to go. But he was pretty concerned about you. Kept saying he couldn't lose you again. I'm going to assume that he knows you are Tenten, then?"
I nodded, still feeling the relief of knowing that Neji was okay.
"Well, everything checks out okay. You need a bit more rest, and I can give you a pill for the headache. Would you like anything else?"
"No, I'm okay."
She nodded, and left the room. Whoever the other person was- if there was anyone in that bed at all- they said nothing. I stared at the ceiling until Sakura came back, holding a pill and a glass of water. I swallowed the pill, and she left the remainder of the water on my bedside table.
She walked away, but I was staring in awe at the table. Besides the water, there was something else sitting on top of the wooden desk. It was beautiful, and my heart couldn't help but to race as I laid my eyes on it.
For on that table, there was only one other object.
A single, red rose.