A/N: This is written for NejiTen Month on DA, and, if nothing else, I promise it has a happy ending, even if the beginning is a bit… depressing. Scratch that, the beginning is really depressing. But the one rule for this was that it had to be happy, so a happy ending it shall have, no matter the strange twists the road there will comprise of.
Neji was… dead.
They'd won the war… and Neji was dead.
Those are the only thoughts going through TenTen's head as she sits at the memorial stone, staring at it in the same way as her sensei's rival has been prone to do. The only thoughts…
That Neji… was dead.
She doesn't turn around, knowing exactly who it is, even if the voice is so much more subdued than normal, or at least, more subdued than it used to be.
"Lee, what's wrong?" Her voice is softer, softer than it normally is. She was never as exuberant as her teammates, but she was… peppy, she thinks. She can still be like that, if she tries, but it takes so much more effort than it used to. Even Lee and Gai aren't as happy as they used to be, not with Neji gone.
You'd think things would be happier with Neji gone, wouldn't you? That with him and his stoic personality gone, Lee and Gai would be… but no. It's not like that, not at all.
"Gai-sensei wants you to come to the Hokage's office. They're… they're reading the will, and as members of his team, we're supposed to go." Lee's voice breaks in the middle, but he covers it up, pretending it didn't happen, and TenTen does the same. It wouldn't do either of them any good to break down over this. Not again.
TenTen stands up and followed Lee back to the tower, her thoughts eternally on the same place they had been for the past several weeks, ever since she'd woken up from a coma with a missing arm and the heavy knowledge of her teammate's death.
And that place was, of course, said dead teammate.
TenTen had been a lot closer to Neji than Lee or Gai. It wasn't a matter of not liking the other two, just a matter of… well, they were Lee and Gai. They were the Green Beast Duo of Youth or whatever it was that they were calling themselves now, and it was an almost paternal bond, one that TenTen had never tried to intrude on, first out of wariness and the slightest bit of disgust, though the latter vanished eventually, and then out of respect for the fact that this bond was one that she couldn't ever even hope to be part of, nor ever want to jostle. She doesn't want to even try to understand the two.
Neji, though… the two had been close. Very close. Maybe even a little too close, if any Hyuuga other than Hinata and her little sister had ever found out.
TenTen doesn't feel as though her heart's been cleaved in two. She's not that poetic and not that dramatic. But she admits that it feels as though something is missing. Something vital and warm, inviting and creamy and just plain right that she'll never find again. And she knows when and why that something is gone, and it's all she can do to keep from losing herself to the misery sometimes.
She follows Lee to the Hokage's office.
After all, no ninja joins the force without leaving a will, not even the youngest genin.
After it's over, TenTen feels like crying.
She wasn't going to dwell on what was said, on who got what and why and… but she has no strength in mind, in heart, in spirit right then.
She runs to the memorial stone.
TenTen isn't a superstitious person by nature, or a spiritual one. She doesn't really believe that Neji can hear her when she speaks to his gravestone. But it's nice to pretend, she thinks. Calming.
She feels that way when she comes. Like he's right there behind her, almost putting his hand on her shoulder to get her attention, to turn her around and get her to walk with him again. Of course, if she ever turns around, she only sees the empty training ground, the one left alone out of respect for the dead.
She sometimes thinks she can see him standing in the trees, watching her.
TenTen is sure of it.
She knows it's impossible. She shouldn't even be thinking it, but… but she saw him.
It was a trick of the light, she considers, or a little too much work and a little too little sleep, but then she thinks back on his soft smile, his bright eyes, pale as the moon, his glossy hair and the hand that curved around the trunk of the tree he stood next to, and she has to remind herself that he's dead, dead, dead, because he just looked so real. But then she blinked and he was gone, and she was only confused.
She goes to sleep after several hours of convincing herself that she isn't going insane, just tired.
She tries to convince herself that the hand that seems to brush the hair back from her face, long and unkempt out of its buns, that it is just another trick of her imagination, like his very life now is.
And then she needs to meditate to fall asleep, to try and keep her mind blank of emotion.
If she leaves it too open, the memories come back.
Every last veteran of the fourth war has trouble sleeping nights.
TenTen wakes one morning to find that her ribbons aren't where she left them.
She dismisses it as just forgetting to put them back where she normally does, another side effect of the nightmares.
She doesn't notice that they were arranged in the shape of a heart.
TenTen comes back from one long-term mission to find the house dusty. It's not unusual, she thinks, until she sees the footprints.
They're barely there, just the slightest change in color, as though whoever made them was only coming through early enough after she left that there was just enough time for them to be barely noticeable, but not completely covered up.
She dismisses it as one of the girls coming over to get something they left at her place by accident.
She doesn't see the soft footprints that slowly appear and come to stand right next to her.
It's the footsteps that come next. Soft and almost fluttering, they shuffle through the house at night, so quiet that only a ninja could possibly pick the noise up.
TenTen almost decides to go see a Yamanaka about the hallucinations, but then the footsteps stop, and every night after that, she always hears them as she goes to bed.
It's probably just the noise of her own blood pounding through her ears, she thinks.
TenTen's next occurrence is when she catches a hazy sight of him in the mirror. He just stands there, looking over her shoulder, just the barest hint of an outline and large, pale eyes that stand out more than anything. She freezes and turns to look over her lighter shoulder (lighter because, just like her heart, there exists something that should be there but isn't) but there is nothing there.
She turns back to the mirror, to the now possibly surprised eyes and whispers. "Neji?"
There is even more surprise now, but the form in the mirror fades away slowly, dispersing like ever-so-many leaves in the autumn wind.
She calls in sick that day, and just stays home and cries in her bed.
She doesn't know if it's for her sanity or her sorrow.
TenTen can see him everywhere now. Sometimes clearly, sometimes not, but wherever she turns, he's there.
She hasn't told anyone. Not Lee, not Gai, not even Hinata, the one person that would probably care above all others.
She hasn't heard him speak yet. Or felt him truly touch her. There are a few times where it almost feels like he's putting a hand on her armless shoulder or her scarred cheek, but there is no pressure, only a warmth and sadness that she can barely place.
She doesn't know if he refuses to speak or can't.
The words are soft, a quiet whisper that barely reaches her ears.
She tries not to shy away from this final proof.
Either proof that he is truly here…
Or proof that she is truly mad.
"Sakura, I need to talk to you."
Sakura needs to excuse herself from her work, talk to a few medics and nurses to get the time she needs, but TenTen finds herself talking to the green-eyed girl at a lunch table with a privacy seal (important in a hospital).
"Is your shoulder giving you trouble again?" Sakura's eyes are fixed on the place where the TenTen's arm should be. It's a reasonable assumption, really. TenTen is still learning to deal with the loss of a limb, and Sakura is a medic, and they are in a hospital, but…
"No," TenTen shakes her head. "I just… you can fix a corpse more easily than a living person, right? Not bring them back to life, but fix the body?"
Sakura frowns, not seeing where the conversation is going. "Well, yes, depending on the method of death. There isn't really anything we can do for someone burnt to ashes, but we can fix up most wounds that weren't immediately fatal… There are healing techniques that run the risk of killing a person when we use them on the living, but that isn't possible when they're already dead so…"
TenTen nods. That was all she needed to here. "And… who would I go to if I wanted to ask about checking for whether a house or area is being haunted?"
Sakura's movements slow down, and she looks up at TenTen slowly, hesitantly. "The Fire Temple, I suppose."
TenTen nods, and almost smiles at Sakura. "Thanks, Sakura-chan."
And so TenTen goes to the Fire Temple.
They don't have anything to tell her without coming back with her, but one of the monks does offer to see if the spirit she speaks about is tied to her, not to Konoha.
TenTen agrees, and sits down so that the seals they have can do their work. She's young and healthy and, while not quite whole, close enough that she still counts as a B-ranked enemy.
The process takes a while, and unlike with many jutsu, there is no glow and no flashing lights. TenTen's only thoughts circle around what the technique may reveal.
The monk finishes his work and tells her that there is a spirit of some sort that is following her, but it is not a malicious one. The only advice they offer is to pray for the soul and attempt to help it finish whatever it left undone on the earthly plane.
It is enough.
Naruto may be Hokage, TenTen thinks, but he's still prone to doing whatever he can for his friends.
At least, she muses, this is unlike Edo Tensei. There will be no human sacrifice to call the soul. The soul is already there.
Sakura doesn't ask why TenTen finds it necessary to rebuild Neji's body at first. She just does as she's asked after seeing the note from Naruto.
There is a seal put on every shinobi's coffin that keeps the bodies in the same conditions as the day they died, for ten years. A shinobi's death, under any circumstances, is always in question, and the corpses are sometimes needed even years later if the death comes under suspicion. It is for this reason that Sakura has little trouble starting her work, with only Neji's chest wound to fix, as opposed to having to bring rotting cells back to perfect condition.
TenTen occasionally comes by to watch in the weeks that Sakura spends slowly bringing Neji's corpse back to its former state.
She can see him almost all the time, now, even if he's translucent and a little fuzzy at times. She can even hear him most of the time too. He knows it, and the smile on his face when she looks his way almost hurts.
But she knows it will all be better eventually.
It has to be.
Naruto is there with Sakura at the final procedure. Neji's body is in perfect condition, and Sakura's only failure is that she was unable to repair the damage that was done to Neji's eyes.
They bring in Hinata to be there. She has slowly been taking over Hiashi's duties, finally deemed worthy by the clan after her actions against the Juubi during the war, added to the fact that she is far closer to the new Hokage than any other member of the clan. Hinata, however, is not there in Hiashi's stead as the clan head, but as a young woman that was called to the possible resurrection of a dead cousin.
Sakura provided the body, and she now provides the control.
Naruto provided the permission, and now he provides the power.
TenTen provided the catalyst, and now she will provide the soul.
Hinata stays at Neji's head, eyes awakened and ready, tears notwithstanding, to perform any action necessary to keep the no-longer-there seal from doing something unexpected with his resurrection.
He only stands in the air above his body, looking down at the perfect corpse in consternation.
And then they begin.
The first thing she does when he awakes is hug him with her only arm.
The second thing is kiss him, five smooth fingers tangling in his hair to wrench him down.
The third is cry when he candidly informs her that he can no longer see.
Hinata kept the seal from returning to kill him, but she could not undo its work, just as Sakura could not heal it.
The next day, Gai and Lee are informed, and the Hyuuga clan is told a week later.
The wedding is one month after.
There are no Hyuuga willing to object, not when the groom is their pride, their prodigy.
Not when they are all terrified of the dead man.
Not when they are all terrified of the one-armed bride.
Not when the new clan head almost snidely points out how cute she thinks they are.
Not when the Hokage himself supports it.
No, they don't object.
But the bride and groom don't much care for their opinion anyway.
A/N: See? I promised you a happy ending. Maybe it's a little bittersweet, what with Neji being blind and TenTen only having one arm, but it's still a happy ending.
I gave you four genres in one! Romance! Supernatural! Horror! Mystery!
And maybe a little drama with a slight hint of humor at the end.
If you're wondering about TenTen's arm… well, no one gets out of a war unscathed. The others have their injuries too, but they're not the main characters, so I didn't dwell on them. Mental or physical, they're there. I don't think I have to explain Neji being blind at the end.