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There are times when their home is quiet, where the setting sun’s golden light shines through the fragile paper windows and spread their rays onto the smooth wood floors that Tenten often interrupts such a calm scenery with the roars of the war. 

It is when she wakes up and catches the sunshine painting on her skin does she compare it to the dirt and grime collected when she was eighteen, too young to realize the after-effects of the war on her mind. 

And when Neji is gone for a day or two, or perhaps a week or a month, and if Tenten is kept in her home to herself within those empty lots of time without him, she’d involuntarily run her mind to the grim days out on the battlefield scurrying across the rocky fields not knowing whether he is alive or not. 

The memories don’t haunt her. Tenten finds them to be like the shadows casting on walls. When the light enters her sanctum, the shadows appear. And if he isn’t here to dispel the dark shadows from her mind, instead of focusing on the sunlight, she stares at the shadows. It is because the shadows aren’t strenuous to the eye. It wouldn’t blind her nor hurt her. However, anyone would know that acknowledging the shadows is equivalent to losing one’s sight. 

Keeping the scarring past and letting it loom and walk around in her home lets it feast on the goodness of the present. Tenten knows it all too well. She shouldn’t be dwelling on it. She should be eagerly chasing her dream, his dream, and their dreams. He is here, he is with her, and they’ve been this way for more than ten years. Squandering on the past partially blinds her to how fulfilling their future would be.

Tenten is content in where she stands, for she’s standing next to a man who she never believed would be attainable. It was a wish of her’s to plant her feet beside him firmly and it has come true. Therefore it didn’t sound ridiculous to her when she wishes that she’d lose the memories that refuse to leave. 

If only there is a way for her to remove those unfateful days and rid of her all the anxiety and fear she so strongly felt, she would have done it without questioning. 

Tenten leans onto his shoulder, resting her temple to his padded point. Silently, they watch leaves fly. “It means I won’t worry constantly if you’re alive. I won’t doubt you coming back. I won’t have to imagine the worse and bring up that image of your ragged body. I won’t have to use it as an example of how you’d be delivered to me. This way, I’ll only remember you as Neji.” 

“That wouldn’t be nice,” Neji calmly replies, his voice rumbling from the bottom of his throat. “If you lose these memories, you’d lose me. And I’d lose you too because you’d never remember our first kiss.”

“It was bloody.”

“But it confirmed my suspicions about you.” He turns to her just as she lifts her head from his shoulder. The sight of golden leaves falling from its tree dances in her orbs. Neji already finalized his decision to marry her eight years ago but it is a moment such as this that keep his heartstrings strumming for another millennium to come. Despite never being able to live forever, he’s come to the conclusion that if he’d be able to, he’d marry her again and again.

“Confirmed what?”

Neji brushes her red cheek with the back of his fingers, imitating his first intentional affectionate touch after he was taken aback by her gory kiss on the battlefield. “Confirmed that you love me just as much as I love you.” He plants a firm kiss on her forehead, blessing their fortune and wishing to keep their memories complete. “Please don’t say you’d want to lose your memories for us. We’ll learn to find each other sooner the next time we meet if we keep them. There will never be another lifetime where you’ll see me near the brink of death. And there will never be a life where we’d be an ‘almost’.”

Tenten closes her eyes and lets him win. The shadows stand far from her while he’s around.