I wasn't quite satisfied with my other tribute to Neji and Tenten, so here's a second, more final farewell to the two.
That doesn't quite mean an end to sad NejiTen moments, but in my mind, a dream of how they parted.
It's up to you to decide what might be real - what is shown to us in the recent chapters - and what may be a dream. Though one is obviously how it played out, perhaps a parallel world might have had it otherwise. Wherever they are, whether in the dream world of the Infinite Tsukuyomi, or in the horrors of real life, these two will always be in my heart.
Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine, for in my mind, Neji is FOREVER ALIVE! (as is NejiTen)
-Open Your Eyes and Dream-
He would've been sad, but he wasn't.
He should've been sad, but he wasn't.
He could've been sad, but he simply didn't possess it in himself to have that particular emotion at the time.
He wasn't quite sure what he was seeing, really. Not sure at all. Yet his confidence didn't waver, and he stared at the gravestone with little to no feeling. His eyes reflected the color of the moon, pale and cold, and revealed nothing. His gaze flickered over the name engraved solidly into the headstone, but he didn't comprehend. Maybe if he admitted that he knew the person lying in the casket, he might feel sad.
But he didn't. He was a stone, a rock, an unmovable mountain, colder than iced and lost at the peak during a blizzard. He saw nothing. He ignored his green clad teammate beside him, wiping away the nonstop river of tears from his face. From beneath a curtain of black hair, two round, dark eyes risked a glance. No response.
"You're not going to say anything?" asked the green teammate, surprising the man made of stone. There was not a hitch in the green one's voice, nor any sign to indicate he was crying save the fat tears rolling down his face. "After all she did for you, you're not going to say anything?"
He felt distant, then. As if he heard the green man speak, but it was through a wall, separated by a near-soundproof glass window. He was far, far away, hearing things through a border of cotton stuffed in his ears. No pain.
"Leave him be, Lee." A taller man, a larger version of the green teammate, steered the masses away from the man. The man looked down into the casket. The casket had been closed, but he still saw a face. He looked away, hesitantly.
And then, as if a dam had broken, the memories washed over him, cold and warm both at once. Her soft skin, but calloused hands, running along his own. Soft lips, silky hair, a warm body lying in the pool of blankets before him. A kiss on his cheek, warm and lingering.
But it was nothing more than a tear, leaking down his face. The moon rained sadness, and finally, the he let the sadness have him.
He remembered, now. It had been his fault. His fault that he had not made it in time, had not seen beforehand that Hinata was going to throw herself in front of Naruto. It was inevitable, that she would do it once more, for the sake of the world's savior. He knew this much. What he had not expected, however, was the single most precious person in his world to drop her enormous, treasured fan and leap in the path of the soaring wooden spears, and allow herself to block their trajectory.
He wished it had not been her, but himself.
Neji awoke, then, from a disastrous dream. He felt a pitted warmth in his chest, painful and searing every time he moved.
"Don't move," a familiar voice ordered sternly. His eyes traveled upwards and to his left, where a familiar figure sat slouching on a stool, eyes gaunt with dark circles, skin slightly grayed and hair fallen from their regular buns.
"Ten," he managed.
"You dummy," she suddenly cried, hot tears rolling down her chin and plopping onto the hospital bed's sheets. She threw her arms around him, careful not to hurt him. Unceremoniously sobbing into the neck, tucking herself under his chin, Tenten held onto him as if her own life depended on it. "Don't scare me like that."
He reached up and stroked her cheek lovingly, fingers light as a butterfly.
"Dummy," she repeated, sniffling.
"Only for you," he murmured, holding her hands.
The rain poured, and the skies closed, but despite that, the casket was laid to rest in Konoha's cemetery. The entourage of pale-eyed shinobi circled around the grave was impressive, but not impressive enough for her to feel pain.
She would've been sad, but she wasn't.
She should've been sad, but she wasn't.
She could've been sad, but she'd been sad for too long. The sadness had turned to grief, the grief to unbelievable pain, the pain to strict denial. She believed nothing she saw before her eyes. Nothing at all. Yet her confidence wavered, and she stared at the gravestone, heart threatening to break with the overwhelming emotions within her. Her dark eyes reflected the pools and puddles forming near her feet, as her eyes flickered from the headstone to her friends to his family, and back to her feet. She read the name engraved on the grand stone, and she comprehended it fully, but she was frozen. The emotions were there, and they were ready to stab her in the back.
But they didn't, not now, for she was a raging river, seething with frustration and hate and denial. She hated him for dying, for leaving her. She hated him for his stoic, final decision. Because you're a genius, she spat inwardly. Her frown caused her green clad teammate to frown worriedly, and a rest a hand on her shoulder. She shrugged him off harshly.
"Will you say a few words for him?" asked the green teammate. She shook her head vehemently, refusing the same question offered to her by his uncle. He was the cause of her pain, and she didn't want to forgive him. She hated him, hated him for throwing himself into danger, and she hated her green teammate, for the open tears that fell onto his cheeks. "Are you sure? You were so close to him…"
She hated everyone. They'd never understand.
She was distant, then, as if she heard the green one speak, but it was through a wall of emotions bundled tight, coiled into a resistant wall. She tried to whisk herself away, far, far away, but the very wall of emotions she had tried to build as her defense only grounded her to the spot. Pain.
"Leave her alone, Lee," said her teacher, also dressed in green. They refused the mourning robes of black, this time, to represent their everlasting bond with their teammate. Tenten had scowled at this, but she herself had worn no different, dressed in her usual attire. She nearly regretted this decision, watching the casket close, though his face lingered in her mind.
And then, her wall of emotions crumbled, and she was shatteringly sad. The memories pierced her in the back, resembling the splintering spears that had impaled him in the back, the final blows that had brought him to this point, being lowered into the ground. But that's not what she remembered. She recalled his warmth, engulfing her whole, arms wrapped around her at night, lips softly brushing hers. A kiss on the forehead, reassuring and strong.
But she was cold, and the only kiss she received was the cold patter of raindrops on her face, a stark contrast to his fire. She let the sadness have her once more, let it eat her insides for just one more day. Perhaps, tomorrow, she'd be able to feel cold, she'd be able to stop hurting.
Lies, she told herself. Stop telling yourself lies.
She remembered all too clearly, the shouts and the screams and the hoarse, ear-piercing shriek of a jinchuuriki bent over the body of his friend. His call for medics interrupted mid-sentence, as his friend grabbed his collar loosely and told him it was far too late. She imagined this, imagined this speech on her own, but it was as if she'd seen it for herself, next to the sobbing Hyuuga girl who wept for her cousin. She wasn't sure if she would've sobbed alongside Hinata, or if she would've smacked some sense into him.
He wasn't coming back.
She wished hadn't thrown himself in front of Naruto.
Should I have thrown myself in front of him, instead? Tenten often pondered this, but then, dropped the matter entirely.
On both sides of her, two girls clasped her hands. Tenten didn't look up to know that on her left, Hinata had slid her arms around her own, and on her right, Hanabi, silent, without the need for words to mourn the loss of a loved one.
"You dummy," she said, as the rain mixed with her tears.
He didn't wake from a dream, but she awoke into a living nightmare. He was still warm, even after laying on the battlefield for such a long time, long after Lee had gingerly brushed his eyelids closed over his pearled eyes. His hair laid like silk around him, spread gently like a billowing curtain, falling away from his face to reveal the smooth, unmarred skin of his forehead. Without a curse seal, it seemed as if his eternal frown had been lifted, an expression of inner peace laid onto his features by the hand of a god.
So she bent down, then, before any medics could reach him. Before Sakura could pull the canvas over his head and send him to the cold cellars of the morgue, before Lee could come back and weep over the loss of a teammate, and before anyone could see her cry.
Tenten pressed a kiss to his forehead, a seal of remembrance. A memory to forever keep with him, of her, of everyone, of all the people that flew freely with him in the sky.
An eagle soared overhead, and left a single feather, a marble-white one, drifting on the currents, spinning lightly to land beside her. She looked up and allowed herself a smile, a tearful smile, as if she was just throwing a loving goodbye to him before a mission.
And he touched his forehead to hers, whispering goodbye.