Notes: I just realized I don't post much here anymore. Most of my writing is done on my Livejournal so if you're been wondering where I've been, that's where. This fic is basically an excuse for me to write badass!Tenten. Enjoy.
RISE & FALL
Tenten kicks open the door to the hotel room, feeling the impact travel all the way up to her knee, a dull ache that she ignores. Panting, she staggers inside, adjusting her hold on her teammate as Lee half trips over the threshold, his shoe catching the carpet. She's got one arm around his waist and another holding on to the arm he has looped around her neck but almost she can't keep him upright, Lee practically dead weight as he slips in and out of consciousness. Blood drips down into the shaggy carpet and she swallows harshly and looks away.
The hotel is drab and dirty, a lost way station on the edge of town in a backwater country in the midst of a civil war. There's a single bed, its mattress almost concave with age, and a rickety wooden chair that looks like it might turn to dust with a touch. A cracked mirror on the wall to her right shows her a haggard girl, twin buns unraveling and blood all over her. It's no consolation that the red seeping into her clothes, her skin, isn't hers.
She drags Lee to the bathroom, crashing against the door frame and she reaches out to flip the light switch. A bare bulb flickers to life over a dirty sink but her gaze is on the tub. She's not sure how she gets Lee into it. He's tall and lanky and surprisingly heavy but she somehow gets his feet over the rim, the muscles in her back straining as she lowers him achingly slowly down into the tub, one hand on the back of his head so he doesn't hit the tiles. Red smears into the white porcelain and Lee groans softly.
Tenten inhales through her nose. "It's okay, Lee," she tells him, clearing her throat. "I've got you." With her free hand she reaches over and turns on the water.
It comes out a disgusting color of brown at first and helpless anger burns through her chest. A strangled sound escapes from her throat but she bites her lip and forces herself to wait, wait. After a minute, the water runs clear and she wets a towel in it before hiking up the back of Lee's shirt to clean the devastating wounds there. After that, it runs red.
It takes her longer than it should but the water is warm and Lee stays unconscious. In fact, he doesn't wake at all until she shuts off the faucet and wraps a dry towel around him before reaching into the pack on her waist for needle and thread. Her hand is shaking when she puts it to his skin and his eyes fly open at the first pull on torn flesh.
He fights her.
Face twisted in pain, he lashes out blindly and she takes a fist to the face, her head rebounding back against the bathroom tiles at the force of the blow. For a moment, she's struck numb, blind, and then she drops the needle to wrap her arms around Lee's chest, forcing his arms down to his sides, enhancing her grip with slender flows of chakra. It's like embracing a tornado. He writhes and bucks in her grasp, moaning in pain at the pressure of his raw back against her clothes. His eyes are dark and wild and she knows he can't see her.
"It's okay, Lee. You're okay. Please, I have to do this." She chokes. "Please. It's okay. It's okay."
And when her voice does nothing to soothe him, she frees a hand long enough to jab fingers into his neck, side and kidney in rapid succession and watches him slump into her again, out cold.
She gives up the needle and thread. She's not steady enough to do it right and the wounds are deep, too deep for her to stitch even though she wants to try. Instead, she lays thin strips of inked paper on his back, the charms sticking to his skin by blood and water, bridging the terrible rents in his flesh. She is shaking when she finally wraps an arm around his shoulders, gritting her teeth in preparation for what's to come.
She lifts a hand and makes a single symbol.
There's a horrible sizzle of flesh as Lee's skin is flash-seared closed and his body convulses, his back arching as she struggles to hold on to him. Even delirious he's still stronger than her and by the time he slumps back, out of it again, she feels like one of his punching bags. It takes all her remaining strength to pull him out of the tub and back out to the drooping bed. She lays him on his stomach and cuts away his wet and bloodied clothes with a kunai before drying him off and wrapping him in a loose blanket from the closet. It's semi-clean but she's not worried about infection. The seals she'd used would have taken care of that.
Lee's face is pale and there are bruises under his eyes. He breathes shallowly but he's breathing and Tenten can only sit in the rickety chair, put her head in her hands, and cry.
The tears burn down her cheeks but she doesn't make a sound.
After a few minutes she breathes deeply and scrubs them away, standing shakily to make her way back to the bathroom. The bottom of the tub is filled with too much blood and she gets the water started again to wash it away, stomach twisting. She reminds herself that she's stopped the bleeding, that he'll live if he doesn't lose anymore. Her inner voice is not very confidant.
She washes herself next. She's got Lee's blood all over her, can feel it under her fingernails and her skin crawls as she lathers the soap in her hands. She's down to her elbows when she realizes her clothes are just as destroyed as Lee's and suddenly she can't stand them for another second. She strips down to her underwear right there in the smudged light of their hole-in-the-wall hotel and pulls the bands out of her hair to rinse it out over the edge of the tub. When she's done, she's shivering with the water that's run cold, her hair dripping down her back as she puts on the extra shirt from her pack. Her pants are ruined but she's not really of a mind to care. It's not like Lee can see her anyway.
She flips off the light and goes out to kneel by the bedside, pressing two fingers against his neck and breathing out when she finds his pulse. She stays there for a long time, elbows on the bed and knees on the floor and watches him breathe, mind a blank. She's thinking of nothing, everything, when someone knocks on the door once and opens it without waiting for acknowledgment.
She's kneeling over Lee in an instant, crouched like some wild thing in only a shirt and panties, a kunai between her teeth and a scroll in one hand. Murderous rage boils down to killing intent within seconds and she almost snarls aloud, amber eyes narrowing as her senses heighten.
"Come closer so I can kill you," she says, fiercely, and the shadow in the doorway pauses. Tenten coils.
"It's me," he says, and there's an inflection there, a tone that says you know me, all of me, every breath.
In her tired eyes, Neji stands extremely still, as if any movement will frighten her and she can't make herself relax, not yet. There had been times before when she thought they were safe only to find things weren't what they seemed. Their enemies wear many faces.
She drops the scroll in her hand and forms a symbol in front of her chest.
Neji is still Neji.
She breathes his name and he's there, catching her before she tumbles off the bed in relieved exhaustion. In the crook of his arm, she looks up at him and trails a hand down the side of his face in something close to wonderment. She'd left him almost twelve hours ago and a hundred miles back to die on a battlefield alone while Lee's life sputtered in her hands. He'd been buying her time and, though her belief in him was great, she had never thought to see him again. She had never thought she and Lee would make it.
She wants to ask him what happened, how he could stand before her in one piece, but there are no words left in her. She merely brushes her lips against his, a whisper of a kiss, and her fingers curl into the wide sleeve of his shirt.
On the bed, Lee's chest rises and falls.