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Stark white floors lined with equally sanitized walls greeted her as she stepped through the door. On her left, tables were set up in jagged rows and rows of five from one end of the room to the next. To her right, torn and dulled couches and lazyboys were scatted about as if the whole hall was divided down the middle in war. And there she was walking the front lines as if she were Joan of Arc leading her resistance. But no. Those were only the lies her mind told her. Or maybe simply the only truth the world never wanted Tenten to realize.

Doctor Yakushi - Kabuto, just Kabuto, he always tells her - says that's where it gets a little fuzzy. Right around the middle.

"Kabuto..." Wincing, she raised a hand to rub away the dull ache forming at her temple. "...Orochimaru."

That was the reason why Tobi, her foster father, sent her here. Because there was a line between reality and fiction that she just couldn't seem to determine. Worlds melted together, drifting in and out of her consciousness when her emotions reached critical limits. In the past, Tenten struggled with anger issue concerning them. And while she believed those problems resolved, a crop of new ones had come in to take their place. These, at the very least, seemed manageable.

"That's right," the nurse said, her sugary sweet voice as grating and wrong against her ear as her bright red hair was to the patient's eyes, "You just had a check-up with Doctor Orochimaru."

In the corner of her mind, Tenten was the tiniest bit suspicious. She felt it as she always did when the attendant brought her in and out of her room. Karin was never really as nice and kind as she sounded. No one was. The brunette had found that out the hard way. "What did he say?"

Unconsciously, long and thin fingers trailed over the veins in her arm where the needle had been inserted, finding instead the insistent fingers of her orderly squeezing just above the puncture. Carefully. No need to show more bruises than necessary. Otogakure was a place for recovery, after all. Still, she was met with a prickle of pain through her nerves for the briefest of moments. And then there was just the warmth of her blood. The chill of Karin's fingers in comparison.

Nothing compared to the sting of a knife, she thought, Or the heat of a katon. But that had always been Sasuke's...

"I'm sure he'll tell you later," she replied, guiding her into a familiar looking room and sliding her into a worn out mattress that seemed to collapse under her weight when she sat on it, "For now, stay here while the medicine takes."

The look of irritation came before she realized, and it was a matter of avoiding the indignation of the nurse's gaze when the cup of water was offered to her. It was a familiar dance that both women loathed. But by now, it had become routine. Normal. Anything less and there ran a chance of her entire progress becoming undone. Or at least that was what she had been told. Funny, there was a vague ghost of a whisper that seemed to state differently.

Brushing it off, she gulped down the water like it was her last breath of air. And before she could utter a word of thanks for her patience, Karin was gone. And Tenten was alone once more to battle the falsities within the walls of her mind, both of her own making and those created by her treatment.

When she woke up hours - days, even? - later, the room was dark and the light filtering through her barred window was a pale blue instead of a bright white tint. Too late to join Lee in a walk around the lawn, outside. Far too late to sit next to Neji for Quiet Hour and Music Appreciation. Now, it was time for sleep. More and more sleep. Too much sleep to be healthy, Tenten thought. But Kabuto always seemed pleased when she would tell him how much she slept in between sessions.

And then there were the bruises...

A clatter of noise down the hall drew her attention, and the slap of running footsteps only stood to fuel her speculation. Someone was making an escape. But it wasn't until she heard the scrap and squeak of old joints that the young patient thought to consider the possibility of more than one inmate running towards freedom. Or at the very least, mischief. And as a dark hand slide out from under her bed, Tenten could only think that it was the latter. Then again, maybe the person running around outside was just merely a distraction...

The room was silent as a grave. And as she sat there on her bed and watched him emerged from the darkness under her bed, it was very much like watching a corpse rise from the dead. Especially when his eyes hit the light and seemed to glow. Her days stretched out between reality and the waking dream of her medication, his eyes always seemed to have that same devilish glow.

"...I guess you decided your room was too small. Again." Tilting her head curiously, she traced over the lines of his silhouette and the way his shoulders were held high and tight against his natural frame. "Or maybe just too lonely."

The beat of footsteps drew near. And it all meant nothing when dark swirls turned towards her.

Tenten paused for only a moment under their intensity. She had never seen eyes like quite like... but then, she should be used to them by now. It was, perhaps, the one real and most welcomed constant in her life at the asylum. Relaxing her shoulders, the young girl leaned back against her palms, a small quirk pulling at her lips. "You're making a real habit out of this, you know."

With the light of the moon streaming through her barred window, she saw his sharp brow arch and knit curiously in the darkness, shoulders angling to match the turn of his head. And before he uttered another word in response, the young man took a seat down beside her. "...Lee doesn't seem to mind."

"Really?" Here, she scoffed. And without any real thought, the girl met his gaze. "You're gonna owe him a lot for this one, especially after last time."

A jerk of his shoulder marked his nonchalant shrug to the comment. "He said Isolation was... youthfully pleasant."

"I wouldn't really go buy his judgment." After all, Lee found exerting himself to do five hundred push-ups within an hour to be exceedingly fun. And suffering through hundreds of paper-cuts to finish up the thousand paper cranes it took for a wish to be granted to be challenging. Because Lee believed in wishes. And it was everyone's desire to leave this place far behind them. Not so much unlike his fictional counterpart, she thought with a solemn snort. But then, that kind of thinking was the reason why she was there. Why all of them were there.

Sighing softly, Tenten resolved to keep things from getting into that grey area and changed the subject. At least for her own sake. "So... what's the deal? You don't normally make house calls."

"You... didn't show up to Group Session for the past two days." Plain and simple, or at least that was how he sounded. And so much more weight to the words than either one of them let on. Or maybe the drugs were effecting her more than any of them wanted to admit.

She shifted her glance to him at that, and tried to do the mental calculations in her mind. Or even to pull memory from those missing hours between the moment Karin administered the drugs and her waking up in the dead of night. But to no avail. Tenten could remember nothing. Nothing real, in any case.

Two days. So that's how long it had been...

"...What did you dream of, this time?"

Quietly, she sighed. And in staring at the far wall, she let her mind wander. Her eyes slowly became unfocused, and the dull blue light of the moon's rays faded in wake of a dream that had always seemed too absolute and concrete to be intangible. And even as Tenten wiped the tiredness away from her vision, she found that she could still smell the crisp freshness of the air, and feel the cool spray of the water as if they stood there right before her.

"...A waterfall." Sighing, the young woman turned her attention towards the other for some sort of root into the reality everyone wanted her to believe, knowing she would find none. "You were trying to master Kirin."

"Before or after - "

" - After." And she could still feel the burn in her lungs from it. So much so that Tenten felt a need to lay down and stretch out over her bed to calm the quick beat of her heart from it. All the while, her fingers spayed out over her sternum - dead, she should've been dead after a shot like that - and she tried to remember what it was like to be alive. "I was still having a hard time breathing and you kept telling me to rest up so I could recover enough for us to spar again."

"Hm. Sounds about right. Go on."

And even as the young woman allowed the words to circle and spread around her, there was no ignoring the way his fingers glided and prodded along hers. And even while her mind began drifting off into that other place they were trying to keep her from, Tenten could feel the weight of his hand and his pull leaving with her. Because he was just as much lost in the dream as she was.
Theme: 03. A machine with broken workings [ Wordcount: 1664 ]
Character(s): Tenten, Uchiha Sasuke; brief mentions of Yakushi Kabuto, Orochimaru, Karin, Rock Lee, Hyuuga Neji
Pairing(s): Hints of Sasuke/Tenten
Warning(s): None.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but these words.
Note: Random series of one-shots based on the themes borrowed from 20_aus although... it's more like 25 since I plan on doing the extra/bonus themes too. In hindsight, this is probably a bad idea for trimming back on the plot bunnies.
Dedicated to: ~featheredshaft because their dynamic works in any universe, I say. 8| And to the #SasutenFans community! Because it's Sasu/Ten week and I haven't submitted anything for them in a while. 8(
Useless fact: 'The red string of fate, also referred to as the red thread of destiny, red thread of fate, and other variants, is an East Asian belief originating from Chinese legend and is also used in Japanese legend. [...] The two people connected by the red thread are destined lovers, regardless of time, place or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break. This myth is similar to the Western concept of soulmates or a twin flame.'

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Submitted on
July 9, 2012
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