Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Buried Alive

It's terrifying—being buried alive.

She remembers screaming, just once, because there was only enough time for one breath before the sky went out and entombed her in suffocating, black earth. She doesn't scream again. She knows the protocol for these types of situations. She's read the books, done the research; she's practiced.

But it's different from practice. It's real. This is real. She's—

She doesn't breathe. She closes her eyes, tries to clear her head. Panic will not free her.

She always imagined it would be like drowning, to have an element so familiar and dear turn on you—dare you. To be choked, and unable to think because the seconds are ticking away, quickly, faster than your heart can drum. To have nowhere to escape to, because it's all around you, compressing itself against your lungs, immobilizing your limbs—making you useless.

All the practice in the world doesn't help. She knows what it feels like to drown, nearly drown; to have her vision whiten dangerously at the edges against her will, to sink into a welcome and weightless abyss.

Neji had saved her, then.

But it's different. There's no one to save her now.

And it's worse. Being buried alive is worse, because she can't see the sky, not even the muddled shadow of it through a haze, not a single beam of sunlight. She can't see birds, the trees. She can't see things that remind her of home, that remind her she's not alone. She would have liked to before she—

It's black, hot and cold. The enemy nin's chakra blazes arrogantly through the dirt that clings to her—her lips, her ears, her waist—like a cruel lover. The knives she's painstakingly prepared and tucked into the folds of her clothes are worthless now.

Almost worthless. She's Tenten, Konoha's tried and true weapons' mistress. She knows the protocol.

Her hands are bound by earthen chains. Should she struggle, she knows he would not hesitate to crush her, like Gaara of Sand crushed Lee's bones those many years ago. Her fingers, rendered impossibly stiff by heaps of compacted dirt, twitch against her side. She moves them, slowly, desperately, because she's running out of air and her lungs on fire.

She feels metal, the cool, comforting edge of the knife tucked beneath her thigh. Relief flows like warm, white chakra through her paralyzed body. She slices her finger open on the knife and wills—no, commands—it to bleed, to seep into the pages of her smallest scroll, hidden like so many others.

He was foolish for ever trying to end her, without first stripping her of all her weapons.

One breath. Make it count.

"Summoning Jutsu!"

The earth explodes outward, showering the enemy nin in flaming bits of debris.

Tenten sees the sky, and it's enough to ignore the burns along her arm and leg. He stares at her, in wonder and in fright.

Suddenly, she laughs. She laughs because she's free, because she has air she can squander, because he's made the biggest mistake of his life in challenging her.

She leaps into the air, breathes the sky. A rain of steel and vengeance wipes his scream from existence.

And as she drops, plummets from flight like a scarred, pitted comet, she sees them in the edges of her vision—all white and green, her boys and her sensei—fighting their own fight. They look up, only briefly because they recognize the glimmer of polished knives, and she smiles.

Her finger dances along a shuriken. She wonders where she'll aim. Her fight is over.

She knows she was never alone.


A/N: Because it's 1 AM, and things like this just happen.

Thank you for reading. Any feedback is, as always, greatly appreciated.