He winced, he gripped the cold, trembling hands that were now matted with blood, his blood. His nerves were on fire, his brain had begun to shut down, and in his fingers were her hands and his warm, gushing blood that threatened to empty out of his body.
Tenten wrenched her hands away from him, the knife caustically sliding back out, and his pain receptors forced his sight into a blanket of white; excruciating pain left all his extremities numb. Neji sank to his knees. The gash was deep, and his blood was slowly pooling on the concrete.
"Tenten," he gasped.
He heard a strong uptake in breath, and he turned his head up only to see the tears fall from her face, her slim shoulders shake uncontrollably, her trying to wipe her bloody hands against the stark white of her dress. Her breathing was ragged, she was crying uncontrollably.
"I love you," he mumbled, before his world turned black.
Neji fumbled with his words, the first time he could ever remember. Tenten was sitting next to him, playing with an unlit cigarette between her fingers and slowly sipping a drink, and Neji blurted it out. It was the first time he consciously planned one.
"The festival's… coming up."
Tenten finally turned her head to look at him but Neji had his eyes fixed on the clouds. It was not that he was afraid, it was this sudden increase in heart rate, his inability to stay still (which he was impeccable at), it was signs that he was nervous. He hated the feeling and finally dragged his eyes towards Tenten's face. Not that he could really much take them off now.
Her brows furrowed for a moment.
"Ne… are you asking me on a date?"
And she had done it again, she had flung the question at him he didn't want to answer, in fear that she'd object.
Tenten turned back, finishing her drink and rocking on her heels to stand up. Neji watched, cautious.
"Eight sound good?" she said softly, not facing him. Neji felt a breath of relief leave his body, as he watched her silhouette. He stood up after her, and he caught what must have been a smile on her lips.
He was dumbfounded on the workings of women.
Tenten had not shown up in a kimono, that he had expected. But she did show up in a Western dress, a simple garment of ivory white with a crimson red bow tied right below her breasts, the fabric hugging her torso and her waist, flowing comfortably across the swell of her hips to flutter at her knees. Her hair was down, and not matted with sweat and the scent of sex, falling in soft curls below her shoulders, and her bangs were pinned to the side. She wore comfortable red flats, and bracelets that tingled together adorned her slender wrists. She smiled when she saw him, and had politely kissed him on the cheek, where the scent of magnolia blossoms filled his senses. His hands had involuntary touched her waist, and she turned her head upwards, wordless, and allowed him to take the kiss he had been waiting much too long for. He hadn't felt her lips in over two weeks, not since that dark night when she defied him. He missed her, physically dependent on her soft touch and her warm lips.
Tenten's fingers slipped between his, and she smiled a beautiful, dreamy smile. Neji hadn't seen this side to her, and it dawned on him that there were so many endless more possibilities of faces and multifaceted sides and beauty he had yet to uncover about her. He wanted to see more of Tenten, especially this side that was just as equally entrancing, of Tenten in dresses.
He had missed her. The empty abyss in his chest was slowly filling back again.
She had been trying to catch goldfish and he was watching, he caught himself thoroughly enjoying himself.
Tenten looked up at him, she caught his expression and something on her face fell. Neji blinked. She had such a sad, heartbreaking expression that he could not completely comprehend. But she had looked down before he could further analyze it.
Tenten had caught two goldfish, who were swimming contently, unaware of their sudden loss of their world, only aware of each other's existence, each other's space and distance relative to their own. When she had looked up again, there was a smile on her lips and a blankness in her eyes. Neji kissed her again, out of his sheer desire. The vibrancy did not return to her eyes, but Neji thought nothing of it.
For those few hours, it was only her that he reveled in, her very being restored his confidence that Tenten was his, all his.
Neji's phone rang. He attempted to ignore it, but Tenten urged him to pick it up, knowing it must be Shikamaru.
"What?" he growled irritated. Shikamaru's breath was ragged, the reception was static.
"…Hyuuga…Mist…" Shikamaru was yelling from a distance. Neji frowned, alarmed. Shikamaru must be in a fight, and the news had to be urgent.
"Where are you?" Neji tensed.
"…target…" a long static filled Neji's senses. "…Tenten…"
His fist clenched. Someone was going to target Tenten. Tenten looked up in his eyes, and Neji quickly checked Shikamaru's location. Just a half mile south, by the pier. Definitely a deserted area, perfect for a fight, a murder. Shikamaru was in trouble, but Tenten was to be targeted.
Neji assessed his surroundings, his arm squeezed tighter around her.
"Neji, what's wrong?" she asked, turning her head up.
He contemplated on telling her. Tenten would tell him to leave her and save his friend, or worse, she'd insist on coming along. He didn't say anything, and Tenten forced him to stop. She looked into his eyes, and waited for him to tell her.
"Shikamaru's in some trouble at the pier."
Tenten nodded, quickly checking their surroundings. The crowd was getting thicker around them.
"Someone is going to target you," Neji continued. "I can't leave you alone."
"I can protect myself," she retorted indignantly. Neji ignored her comment, and pulled her along.
"Shikamaru will be fine," he said finally.
"You're being ridiculous," Tenten said somberly. "Go."
Neji spotted Kiba and Naruto at a stand, bantering around a gambling table. Tenten was fidgeting under his grip.
"Stay with them," he commanded, and Kiba and Naruto exchanged glances.
Neji recounted what happened to the pair, and they voiced on going. But Neji had a feeling that there was something much more threatening. Mist was involved.
"Just watch Tenten," Neji's hand was running down Tenten's arm, he squeezed her hand. She wasn't responsive to his touch. She frowned, and Neji sighed.
"Tenten, I need you to be safe," he said softly. He leaned down and kissed her, she turned her head away.
Shikamaru was nowhere in sight. A heavy fog had settled on the dock, and the pier was as expected, deserted.
Neji was antsy. Whoever it was wanted Tenten, and here she was, an easy target. Walked right into the trap.
Tenten didn't step on the dock, so neither did Neji. And through the fog stood two figures. One of them was Shikamaru, and Neji signaled Naruto to head in. There was a bit of roughing, and then a splash. Naruto's yell and a subsequent splash. The bastard had tied Shikamaru up and pushed him into the ocean, with Naruto after him. Kiba ran ahead, and Neji was left squeezing Tenten's hand.
"Go," she whispered, and the hardest decision of his life was presented to him.
Instead, he took her by the hand and they ran out to the dock.
The head of Mist stood, a gun in his hand pointed at Kiba.
"Glad to see you made it, Hyuuga," he sneered. Neji clenched his teeth.
"I won't kill him, but you're going to realize pretty soon that you've walked right into my trap."
Tenten was no longer by his side, walking calmly towards the head of Mist. He handed her the gun, in which she pointed at Kiba as the thug tied him up.
"You said you didn't work for Mist," Neji muttered, his voice shaky. His world was hazy.
Tenten didn't look at him, and the yakuza laughed. "She lied to you, Hyuuga. She got under your skin just like she was supposed to and she broke you. Go. Attack her. Or maybe she'll attack first."
When Kiba was tied down, the yakuza kicked him in the side, took the gun from Tenten and walked down the dock.
"I'll leave this to you, Ten-chan."
Just as his figure was lost in the fog, Tenten's knives glistened in the dew.
"Whose side are you on?"
"Ne, you know it's not smart to assume I'm on yours."
"Neji, Neji, Neji!"
He woke up two white walls and pink hair shaking him. It was Sakura. His side ached, but he was alive.
"Oh my god, he finally woke up. Get Naruto!"
Neji's head ached. Disoriented, he tried to sit up, but was pushed down by Sakura. "You're in too much of a critical point to attempt to strain the wound!"
"Where's Tenten?" he croaked.
"The bitch tried to kill you!" Kiba growled.
Neji looked out the window, watching the birds through the trees. Tenten had betrayed him. He loved her, but she was gone. Around him, Sakura was fussing, Naruto and Kiba were scheming, and Shikamaru was staring out the window with him.
"She didn't though," a voice said, over the noise. Neji turned his head to look at him. It was Sasuke, leaning along the doorframe.
"If Tenten wanted to kill you, she would have. The fact isn't that she merely missed. She knifed you at such a precise area that would cause a shit of bleeding, but you wouldn't die. She missed your vital organs on purpose."
"Where is she?" Neji mumbled, trying to get up.
"No moving from there!" Sakura shrieked.
"She transferred schools, and we searched the apartment; she moved out. There's no way of finding her," Shikamaru reasoned.
"We go to Mist, then."
Tenten was shivering, holding her aching side and limped out towards the street. She touched her torn lip.
She hid long enough to know that Neji had fully recovered, before going to Mist and end things. Kill the head.
Mist had beaten her up bad, but she finally got to see that bastard's face. She had barely escaped. Her scar still ached, reopened by her demons. She had remembered that night, the look in his eyes, his words. She had cut open the wound again, to die.
But she didn't die. She bled half to death, but she didn't die.
Hiding in the shadows, she heard the roar of engines. She didn't have much energy to move from there, but after shouts, she watched as behind the doors of the house she had just escaped from danced flame. Someone had torched the Mist quarters.
And she knew who. She had to get out now before he found her.
Grabbing her bleeding side, Tenten moved out to the sidewalk. Headlights shone on her, speeding towards her.
Hit me. Hit me.
The car screeched to a stop, inches in front of her. Tenten knew she was caught. She limped to the passenger seat, and stepped in.
Tenten hissed, but Neji continued to work. They were sitting in her empty apartment, Tenten on the table and Neji cleaning the wound. He had removed her shirt completely, her skinny frame shivering, and Neji remembered the feel of her skin under his fingers.
"Why did you reopen this?"
Tenten didn't respond, and he felt a tear on his hand. He looked up, but Tenten was already wiping her face. Gently, he moved her hands away. Tenten batted them away.
"Why are you here, Neji?"
Neji wiped the tears from her eyes, but they continued to fall. He kissed them, holding her face tenderly. He kissed her eyelids before brushing his lips on hers.
"Tenten. You are on my side. Always."
It only made her cry harder, her arms around his neck.
"I love you, Neji. I love you."
Notes: Finally finished this. Phew.