Wow, this is the most words, work, and time I have put into a story/chapter so far. TheAwkwardBystander came up with the idea of this story and I wrote it, so give lots of credit to her!
DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN NARUTO! I DO NOT OWN NARUTO! I DO NOT OWN NARUTO!
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Loss is like a hole in your chest. Like some animal has eaten your heart out yet left you alive, so that every day you could wish you weren't. Neji made me lots of promises; we'd promised each other that we were going to die together. Neji had kept every promise but one. Neji had died before his time, and I was paying for it just as much as he had.
"This is a spectacular funeral, if you ask me," an insensitive Hyuuga elder proclaimed during the reception. I growled softly to myself. This was a horrible funeral. This was a horrible, unforgiving, evil world. No world with any goodness would kill Neji. My Neji.
I had tearstains all over my face, the collar of my shirt was wet with the tears that had rolled down my cheek and dripped of my chin. I wouldn't cry anymore here, but I knew I had a long night ahead of my full of gut wrenching sobs.
All the Hyuuga elders, who upon hearing of Neji's death claimed they wear extremely sorry about the loss of one of their own (I knew better), had insisted that I wear a fancy black ball gown. It had been strapless and had hugged my chest to the top of my hips then flared out. I declined. I knew Neji wouldn't want me to be any different at his funeral than any other time. I was in a black tee-shirt and black jeans. Naruto, who had recently become Hokage, walked over to me.
"I never should've sent him on the mission. I-I, I'm so, so sorry TenTen," Naruto got out, his breath short and rugged. Hinata stood at his side, squeezing his hand comfortingly. I just nodded, I knew my voice would be broken and hoarse and horrible if I attempted to speak. "TenTen," Naruto continued on, "I know this is hard, but I'll do whatever I can as your Hokage, and friend, to help you through this." I nodded again. I had no need to talk. I had no need for anything anymore. My appetite for life had been put out like a light.
I walked away from everyone. I walked away from all the Hyuuga's who now pretended that they gave a damn about Neji, all those who had been a part of Neji's life. Why'd you leave me? Why did you break your promise? My breathing picked up, my shoulders moving with the intensity of my inhaling and exhaling. I closed my eyes, calming myself down.
I knew I couldn't stay at the funeral much longer. I didn't want to keep up the act that I was somewhat okay. I couldn't keep up the act that I had some sanity left in me, some need to live; some thought that someday things would be okay. Neji had been the reason I had gotten up each day, and now he was gone.
I slowly made my way to the casket. I didn't know if I wanted to see him. He'd been murdered gruesomely while trying to protect some woman and the powerful scroll she possessed. Three steps, four steps closer to where he lay, never to move again. Deep breaths, I told myself.
I stood in front of the fancy cherry wood coffin. I was shaking, a sort of trembling from my core. Maybe that was my heart breaking apart and turning to dust. I peered over the side of the coffin. He was lying, his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes closed, with a placid look on his forever-unmoving face. I'd never again see that smirk creep up on his lips; never again see that playful glint in his milky eyes. I stroked his long silky brown hair. Positively quivering, I set a white rose, his favorite, onto his chest.
"Neji," I whispered, my voice even worse than I had feared, "I love you," I couldn't bring myself to say the word 'goodbye,' instead I took off running, running away from the funeral, and away from my thoughts.
When I finally stopped at my house I was dripping in sweat, my calves were burning, and my heart ka-thudded like a freight train. I wiped off my wet face with my wet hands. The smell the salt from the sweat on my skin tickled my nose, and I was plunged into a sea of memories.
"WAIT!" Gai yelled throwing his hands up as if he was stopping traffic. His team stopped, mid-workout, Neji and I with bemused aggravation, Lee with attentive admiration, "DO YOU SMELL THAT MY CHILDREN OF YOUTH?" Gai yelled his pupils who were merely feet away. I sniffed the air cautiously. All I could smell was a bad mix of body odor and the chicken with rice we'd eaten for lunch. "THAT IS THE SMELL HARDWORK, DETERMINATION, AND VICOTRY!" Gai said pumping his fists toward the sky.
"YES!" Lee yelled back at Gai, "I SMELL IT! I SMELL VICTORY! WHAT A BEAUTIFUL, YOUTHFUL SCENT!"
I looked over at Neji. He was rolling his eyes. Neji noticed me watching and smiled at me. This was just one of the many interruptions to our workout that Gai found necessary.
"YES LEE! I KNEW YOU'D UNDERSTAND! NOW BACK TO IT!" Gai bellowed, ushering us off. Starting to run again Neji came up beside me.
"Do you want to go have lunch after this?"He asked me. We'd been dating for a few weeks now, but my heart still skipped a beat when he talked to me, and my stomach still melted into butterflies.
"Of course," I said, smiling. He was so perfect. We ran together, our breathing mixing to make one big 'whoosh' of in and out, in and out. Our steps were on the same beat too. Step, step, step, whoosh, step, step, step, whoosh. I didn't need to look at him to see him; it was as if his image was burned into my mind's eye. Miles that would've usually been torture, some cruel exercise that Gai thought was a 'fun, youthful treat,' was over in what felt like seconds.
"Ready?" Neji asked, as I finished packing up. I was drenched in my sweat, and was pretty sure that I was red and blotchy too, but I didn't think Neji really minded how I looked.
"Yeah," I replied, scooping up my bag. Yet before I could lug my crap over my shoulder strong hands were taking it out of my grip. Neji pulled my pack over his shoulder then turned to face me.
Slowly, ever so slowly, he leaned down, his soft pale-pink lips caressed mine. It was slow and sweet, his lips warm without being uncomfortable. The touch was pure bliss. It was romantic and gentlemanly, while being still managing to be passionate.
"IT IS A TOUCH OF PURE LOVE! A YOUTHFUL EMBRACE THAT TWINES TOGETHER THE HEARTS OF TWO YOUNG SOULS THAT WILL BE TOGETHER FOR ALL ETERNITY!" Lee cried out, scaring both Neji and I, making me go pink. Lee was starting to cry, something he often did when he felt strong emotions. "IT IS A GLORIOUS DAY!" he sang through his tears. I looked at Neji, who licked his bottom lip lightly with the tip of his tongue in an embarrassed but still pleased way-something I found extremely cute- and I couldn't help but agree with Lee: today was a glorious day.
I collapsed at my door while sobs overwhelmed my body. Neji had always been a gentleman. He had been kind, and sweet, caring and passionate, loving and beautiful and athletic and perfect. He had been perfect for me. And now I'd never see him again. I'd never feel his strong muscled arms wrap around my waist while he nuzzled his face in the crook of my neck, or see his gorgeous face in the moonlight. Nor would I be woken up his hand stroking my face; never again could I talk, train, or be with him. He had left me, and he couldn't come back.
I crawled up the steps to my house. I didn't much care to walk. I didn't much care to live. I slowly turned the knob and shoved the door open. After closing and locking the door I fell into a heap on the carpet and balled. Really truly balled like a new born baby. Like a weak baby. My nose filled as fast as my eyes did and I hiccupped as I tried to breathe through all the waterworks. Everything was a blur. Did he think of me before he died? I wondered, did he die painfully and slow? Did he think of the life we had planned together? How we'd already named the children we would have, or how I would be Mrs. Hyuuga? I was pretty sure that my neighbors could hear me crying at this point. It was a horrible noise a mix of screaming, and sobbing, and hiccups as I tried to breathe. I tried so hard to breathe, but my oxygen, my Neji was gone.
I sniffled through my nose as I crawled to my bed. The clock told me it was 11:45 p.m. My eyes were burning from all the tears they had shed. My calves were burning from running. My heart was burning of loss. Maybe I could just burn to a crisp and float away. Finally after millions more tears shed, I fell into a fitful sleep.
I'll admit: the next couple of days were ugly. I didn't get out of the house. I hardly left the bedroom, except for using the bathroom. I'd eat some days, and the others I just didn't have the energy to go and get food. Five or six days after the funeral Hinata came by. Hinata is the sweetest, quietest girls I know, but I suppose if you go into a fit of depression you bring out the other side of her. The other side has the mouth of a sailor, and the commands and determination of a drill sergeant.
"TenTen," Hinata called from my front door, "If you don't open this damn door right now I'm going kick it down and come after your ass!" I'd never heard Hinata that way, and I wasn't going to see what would happen if I made her anymore angry then she already was, so I slowly made my way to the door.
"Well," Hinata said as I opened the door, "you look like shit," I was sure she was right, although I hadn't looked at a mirror. The next few hours consisted of her scrubbing me clean, feeding me, and pep talking the whole way through.
"We're getting through this together Ten, we are going to get over this," She kept saying, over and over, as if that would change the fact that I wasn't ever going to over 'this.' He had left me. He was dead.
"There!" Hinata said, beaming at me, "you don't look half as bad now!" She proceeded by pushing me in front of a mirror. I had dark, bloodshot eyes, red from crying. I also looked tired, and older, but other than that, I looked pretty much how I usually did.
"Mm," I said, when I noticed she was expecting an answer. Hinata huffed, apparently not pleased.
"Next I'm getting you out of this shitty place. It smells like … burnt toast," Hinata concluded. Yeah, I thought to myself sarcastically, it usually smells like burnt toast when you burn toast. Then what she said seemed to sink in.
"No! No, no, no, no, no!" I said, louder than I had expected it to come out, "I'm not ready to go out yet!" Hinata put her hands on her hips, and spun me around I was facing her. (We were doing that awkward thing where you look at each other's reflection in the mirror and talk to that)
"TenTen, Naruto and I have decided this is what is best for you, and that's final!" as if on cue Naruto burst through the door-does anyone care about my privacy? - And scooped Hinata into a big hug. They kissed all deep and heavy in front of me. I flinched. This wasn't what I needed. I'd lost Neji; I didn't want to see couples be all gushy together.
"Yeah TenTen," Naruto said after pulling away from Hinata, "getting out will be good for you," I doubt it, "you'll have a good time," Unlikely, "and I'm sure it will make everyone happier," as if! I concluded to myself. Still, I didn't really think I had a choice in the matter.
"P-please?" Hinata asked, back to her sweet, stuttering self around Naruto and the rest of the world.
"Fine," I said, not even attempting to try to hide the unwillingness to agree. Neji was dead. Neji was dead. Neji was dead. It repeated itself over and over in my head. I didn't want to get better and go to a club. I wanted to mope and be sad. I wanted to forever sit in this room. To ponder over the things that Neji and I would've done with our lives.
"Great!" Naruto exclaimed, "So, we'll be back around seven-ish, and then Hinata, Temari, Shikamaru, Ino, Kiba, Sasuke, Sakura, you and I will all go out clubbing." Naruto finished by shaking back in forth in a bad dance move.
"Lovely," I said, my words dripping with sarcasm. Neji is dead. Neji is dead. It was like one beat that was stuck on replay.
"It'll b-be fun TenTen! We'll s-see you in a b-bit," Hinata called, as the duo walked out the door. As thankful as I was that Hinata had gotten me to a somewhat normal state, there was no way in hell that I was going to have fun going out.
An extreme headache was starting to form behind my eyes, so I set off for some meds. The tile in the bathroom felt cool underneath my feet. I fought the urge to skip the medication and stick to sleeping and crying, and crying and sleeping. I grabbed the small bottle from the cabinet above the toilet. I shook a few pills out of the bottle. Then a thought came to me, take the whole thing. Go and join Neji. The thought was very appealing, but before I had time to truly digest it, the bottle of pills was thrown across the room.
I shrieked. The last time I checked a bottle of pain relievers couldn't pick itself up and throw itself across the room. And I hadn't thrown it. I looked around, and when I turned I screamed even louder.
I had heard of people being so depressed they had gone mental, better I hadn't ever thought that I'd be like that. I didn't feel mental.
"Shh, Ten, it's okay, it's okay," I felt a cool hand on my shoulder. I smacked at it and jumped to my right, away from the thing. My ninja instincts kicked in and I took a couple kunai from the pouch on my upper thigh and threw them at the figure now in front of me. The figure caught the weapons and gave me a slightly disappointed and still understanding look.
"Get the fuck out of my house!" I screamed at the thing. I felt like crying. Or fighting. The thing in front of me chuckled gently.
"You always did like to cuss, Ten," he said his voice velvety, smooth as chocolate, and deep like a bass; it was just as I remembered it.
"Neji," I whispered. The Neji-thing smiled a small smile at me. Yes, it was definitely Neji; long silky deep, dark brown hair that fell from his head like a waterfall, pale porcelain skin, and endless milky eyes. He set the kunai on the floor and walked cautiously toward me.
How? You?" I said, feeling a little faint.
"You should go sit down," he said. This wasn't normal. I was insane. I had to be, "Just don't overdose Ten, I didn't think you were like that," I followed the Neji-thing's orders; I had half forgotten how I had been going to overdose.
"Am I crazy?" I asked myself more than I asked the Neji-thing, "Neji's a hallucination," I decided. It simply couldn't be anything else. I sunk sadly into the couch.
"No, you're not crazy, and I'm not a hallucination. It's more complicated than that," his lips were mesmerizing, just like they had been when he was alive. What kind of stupid prank was someone pulling? Let's go play a nasty trick on the depressed girlfriend of that dead guy, whoopee!
"I'm not falling for your prank!" I said, tears were forming in my eyes blurring the bottom of my vision, and causing more panic to build in my chest. If I wasn't off my rocker, then someone must be forcing the beautifully painful image upon me.
"Ten," he said, walking toward me, "I'm not a prank, look," he said stroking my cheek. I let my eyes close; it was just like it always had been. I could dream myself back to us sitting in a field, him stroking my face as the sun beat down on the two of us. I started to cry again then.
"Shh, shh," he calmed me, enveloping me in his strong, sturdy arms, kissing the top of my head.
"You left me," I croaked out, "You left me, and you'd promised you wouldn't, you, you, what the hell's going on?" all I wanted to do was to let him comfort me and kiss me and tell me it was all okay. But it was too confusing, and I knew I couldn't let him do anything else without getting some answers out of him.
"I know, I know," he said comfortingly, resting his cheek on the top of my head, "and I'm so, so sorry Ten. But I'm here now. I'm here now," I narrowed my eyes at him. Getting up off the couch I squared off at him, looking into those opaque, chalky eyes.
"Explain what the hell is going on, or get out. Now," I commanded, getting some comfort by being able to have some control. He sighed and looked at me as if he was testing me; I folded my arms across my chest: I meant business.
"Fine," he said after what felt like a lifetime. The surprise was wearing off. Now I was pissed. This joke or this whatever was not funny. "After I died, I looked down at my body and had time to think. I decided that I wouldn't leave you. Not yet anyway. And well, here I am," I looked at him, what a load of royal bullshit. "Ten, I don't know how this happened. But I love you, and our love is more important than anything else to me,"
I shook my head. "I really want to believe you. I really do. But I just can't," I was crying again. Why did I always cry? "I saw your dead body lying in a casket. People aren't brought back to the world as ghosts, no matter how regal and deserving they are to be brought back,"
"You better go get that. Hinata's not as patient as she looks," Neji said smiling at me sadly. I stared at him, even more confused. Five seconds of awkwardness including me hoping, praying that what he said-even though I knew it wasn't- was true, then the door bell rang. Oh. He'd somehow known that the doorbell was going to ring. Now he was a physic ghost. Lovely.
I walked slowly to the door; looking behind me the whole time to make sure that Neji was there. He grabbed my hand and squeezed it reassuringly. I shook my head at him. This couldn't be real. This couldn't be real.
"Hey!" Hinata said. She was dressed in a strapless lilac shirt that flowed from her body in an elegant way, and dark skinny jeans, apparently she was over being modest all the time. Naruto stood next to her in jeans- no shirt. Neji scoffed in my ear, he'd never been a fan of Naruto.
"Hey," I said, but before I she could start talking again I continued on to say, "look, it's Neji," I pointed up to where he stood next to me, holding my hand. Hinata looked up at Neji with a look that you would give a child when you are telling them that Santa isn't real. Naruto leaned over and whispered in her ear, 'I told you we had to get her out of the house,'
I looked up at Neji. He gave me a sad look, and nodded. So they couldn't see him. It was only me. Fine.
"I should go," Neji whispered in my ear, "I will be back, enjoy your night out. Don't let Naruto do anything to revolting to 'Nata," then as soon as he had appeared, Neji vanished into the air.
"This is so much fun!" Ino exclaimed as she and Kiba came over to the table in the back corner of the flashy club that I sat at. I nodded thinking sarcastically: sure fun. Exactly the word I would use to describe this.
"Well it's all because of you, sexy," Kiba said seductively as he pulled into close to him.
"Oh," Ino said, her voice dropping lower, "well, you're pretty damn hot yourself," with that comment Kiba attacked Ino with his mouth. It was all tongue and moaning, and heavy breathing. Get a room. Then Kiba dipped Ino onto the table, she wrapped her legs around his waist, and they continued into their kiss while I pressed myself against the wall to stay as out of the way as possible.
They finally came up for air, Kiba setting Ino back onto her feet, and they slid into the booth in front of me as if they hadn't just practically done it on the table.
"It's so weird that Naruto, being the Hokage, is clubbing, don't you think?" Ino asked me, again ignoring the fact that she and Kiba had just had a big make out session. All I wanted was to be back at my house, and although I knew I shouldn't I wanted to have the Neji-ghost to be there too. Ino cleared her throat. Right. I was supposed to reply to that.
"Not really. Just because he's Hokage doesn't mean he's not Naruto," How can he go clubbing, when he just lost a ninja and a somewhat friend, is the real question. I thought to myself. How could any of them do it? The only reason I wasn't back at the house balling my eyes out was because I had seen him. Seen something that resembles him. I corrected myself. But somehow I didn't believe it. I didn't know what the hell was going on, but the way the ghost had acted, they way it talked, the way it looked, the things it said, the ghost was definitely Neji. It wasn't some prank.
"Oh, well," Ino said, giving me a 'well, you're boring,' look. I returned it with a 'well, you're a heartless bitch for not mourning Neji,' look.
"I think I'll turn in early, no need for any of you guys to have to leave the club, so I'll just walk myself home," I said, extra sweetly. Ino looked from Kiba, who had the 'look' in his eye again, back to me. I was pretty sure Hinata had instructed everyone to make sure I didn't leave until everyone else did, but Ino didn't seem to take the time away from Kiba to stop me.
"Well, if you're tired you should get some rest, and no one really wants to leave the party," Ino looked at Kiba again.
"Right," I said, seizing the opportunity, "I'll see you later then,"
"Right," Ino said, already ignoring me, staring into CIBA's eyes. I quickly escaped out the club door.
Brisk night air met me as I left the club. I walked quickly; I wanted to get as far away from that place as possible. I wanted to get back and see Neji. Ironically, Neji came to see me.
"I thought you were going to go out and party," His voice teased playfully. We had never been big clubbers. I looked up at him, it made me want to jump for joy, but it also made me want to cry.
"You're dead," I whispered, we fell into the same walking pace, like we always had done. "But it's really you," I was so disorientated It wasn't possible, but yet, here he was.
"Yep, I am one-hundred percent dead," He replied serious. I wanted to cry again, but I didn't. I had cried more tears in the past couple of days than most people did in a lifetime. I could let my eyes stay dry tonight. We walked in silence for a while. I had plenty of things to ask him, but it didn't seem right. Not yet, anyway. As usual he seemed to be able to read my mind.
"I'll explain as much as I can, but for now, let's just wait. All you need to know for now is that I am, well, me. A ghost me that only you can see and hear but… " He was losing me again, and I was feeling faint, he seemed to notice. "You should get some sleep. You look, well, lovely-you always look lovely- but a little less than healthy," I turned to see we were in front of my house.
We walked up the steps to my door, like we had so many times before, and he opened the door for me, only I knew had locked it. I didn't comment though, I was too tired. I didn't change, but just flopped onto my bed, every inch of my body relaxing into the tempurpedic mattress. Neji sat at the end of the bed, giving me some space. I was glad for this. I still had no idea what to make of it. Of him. A ghost. I could tell he was watching me as I closed my eyes, and fell asleep.
So hope you enjoyed my first attempt at Neji/TenTen. I will update soon! Check out TheAwkwardBystander's stories too!