New fic. I am SO excited about this because, photography. ;) Inspired by Kodachrome (Paul Simon), and a 1600mi/2400km round trip to Utah. This was originally meant to be a oneshot but it spiraled out of control.
Naruto and its characters do not belong to me.
f/2.8, ISO 100
Chapter 1: Catch me if you can
"Name's Tenten. I'm the event photographer for Music Without Sight," she recites, flashing her lanyard with her name and designation on it. The uniformed lady at the counter looks over her bulky backpack, back again at her pass, and matches her face (hazel eyes, chocolate hair) with the grainy picture printed on the little card. (Tenten doesn't miss the way the woman's gaze lingers on her twin buns.)
"You're good to go," she tells Tenten, waving her forward. "Music Without Sight is on the second floor, to your left."
With a quick nod of thanks, Tenten hefts the strap of her heavy bag to a more comfortable position on her shoulder, and strides further into the building. The entire place is posh - marble floors so reflective that it feels as if she'd fall into them, polished mahogany trimming along the ivory-papered walls, and intricate chandeliers hanging high over the center of the atrium. The stairs are carpeted in burgundy, the railings carved of rich, dark wood, and the soundproofing of the walls are so thoroughly done that there is little echo, if any.
Tenten gives herself a mental pat on the back - the stint is one of the first she's nailed since she's moved to this city, and she's positive it's all thanks to the nifty website she's set up, complete with full-page photographs of occasions she's covered, as well as maybe the strings her event-organizer friend, Ino, pulled.
She spots the poster for Music Without Sight next to a set of large cherrywood doors, double-checks the venue, and slips in, closing the door quietly behind her.
The concert hall itself is cavernous; a sea of plush seats spreads out from the stage, and a smaller, higher tier curves along the edge of the hall, with exclusive booths scattered along it. What grabs Tenten's attention the most, though, is the elegant grand piano right in the middle of the stage - beautifully lit with warm yellow tones.
Without quite being aware of it, a smile spreads itself across her lips; Tenten hurries down the stairs to the stage and shrugs her backpack off. The hiss of its zipper is almost too loud in the hall, and she looks over her shoulder, catching the inconspicuously-dressed crew moving behind the side curtains of the stage. The pianist isn't here yet, she notes, and pulls her trusty Canon 5D Mark III out, its weight familiar in her hands.
Format memory card? Check.
Full battery? Check.
Low-light settings? Check.
She clips a couple of lens holsters to her belt and fills them with her prime and zoom lenses, and parks the backpack in a corner, out of view. The stage crew pay her no mind - she checks the time (twenty minutes before the doors open; the pianist still isn't here yet?), and walks around on stage, examining how the lights fall on the piano.
There are quiet greetings from backstage, and as Tenten fires her test shots and checks her exposures on the LCD screen of her camera, someone walks out onto the stage, towards the piano. She turns to look at the same time he does-
Pale lilac eyes are the first thing she sees, accompanied by features so fine they look aristocratic.
Tenten remembers to breathe; one breath, two breaths. She can't remember the last time she's seen anyone look so regal - straight, ebony hair frame his face, its ends flowing past the collar of his white long-sleeved shirt.
"Hi," she says awkwardly, and waves her camera at him. He pauses by the seat of his piano to survey her, and his gaze dips beneath her neckline-
-She remembers a little too late that the card on her lanyard is nestled comfortably between her breasts (why oh why had she not adjusted the length of its strap?), after her cheeks have heated noticeably. Pale eyes flick back up at her face, and he smirks at her expression. Tenten gulps and looks away, at the sea of empty seats, and remembers the job she's here to do.
He does not return the greeting, merely offering a nod, before he seats himself and stretches his arms. She stalks to the edge of the stage and fiddles with the buttons on the camera (it's just an excuse for something to do, really), until he tests the chords on the piano, and begins to play.
For the second time that evening, Tenten finds herself breathless, because this nameless stranger is winding lilting, melodic tunes around her chest, that bring her to another dimension. She chances a look back at him - his eyes are closed and the shadows cast his face in sharp relief) - and knows that he is picture-perfect right there, in that moment.
Tenten grabs her prime lens (for portraits, and speed) and switches it with the one on her camera before she's aware of what she's doing - all she knows is the click of the lens lock, and the way the camera vibrates quietly with its image stabilization motors- The eyepiece is against her eye and she's stepping forward and framing her pictures, and clicking away, the music reverberating in her body the entire time.
He stops playing when an usher comes up to the stage and announces that the doors will be opening for the guests soon - Tenten looks up from checking her image previews and their eyes meet again. Her heart skips. It's impossible for anyone to have eyes so pale, so penetrating (it feels as if he's looking right through her)-
She blinks, and the moment is gone. He is heading backstage without a second glance, and she removes herself from the stage hastily, dragging her backpack to her front-row corner seat.
Tenten slumps in the plush cushions and scrolls through the pictures she's taken of him, the nameless pianist - the photos have turned out great, with the warm lights and his serene countenance, and his elegant fingers flying over the keyboard. She's excited about them - so very excited - but the concert has yet to begin, and it's another hour-and-a-half of heavenly music before she can go home and edit what she's got so far.
She kicks herself for not daring to go backstage - dare she? No, this is enough, she tells herself - and thinks that she's better off keeping this man at arm's length. He makes her feel a little too reckless. Impulsive. Her heart is thundering and she wants so many more pictures of him that it's madness just thinking this way.
So she pinches the bridge of her nose and counts to ten, and pulls her phone out to search for more photography jobs. (Tenten makes sure to not look up the name of the pianist forMusic Without Sight.)
Nothing of note happens when the concert begins; Tenten is back on her feet and snapping picture after picture by the stage, stooping so she doesn't mar the view of the upper-class audience. The pianist does not look at her, or give any indication that he knows of her presence, and her heart sings along with the notes he sends streaming out into the hall, calming in one song and angry in the next.
She wonders about him, about the stories behind the songs, but makes certain to keep her camera between them at all times, as if it were a shield.
When the time comes for the interval, the pianist returns backstage, and Tenten leaves the concert hall, cradling the backpack with her precious equipment, her mind and heart a tangled whirl.
Tenten thinks she's infatuated.
It has been three weeks since Music Without Sight, and she still doesn't know who he is. The pictures she's taken of him have long been edited and sent-
And she knows every curve of his face.
The amount of time she's spent looking at her pictures of him is embarrassing; she's memorized the arch of his eyebrows and the fineness of his cheekbones, and the firm set of his lips. There are now pictures of him on the wall of her studio, alongside her other work, and she's set them in the very corner, far from view, and intimate.
(Vaguely, she wonders if he'd be surprised that she's kept those pictures of him. He does not seem the type to be easily startled.)
Tenten keeps him a secret, and likes it that way (because he is untouchable like that, and admiration from a distance means she won't get hurt).
The next time she sees him is at a political rally.
A swarm of people are gathered by the makeshift stage, waving flags and banners and cheering at something someone is saying. The words blaring from the loudspeakers glide past her ears and over her head, into the rest of the crowd (she isn't interested in lies and empty promises).
Tenten has planted herself at the front lines of the media area, where it's packed, humid, and there are flashes going off all around her, firing at whoever is speaking at the moment. The lenses next to her are huge and expensive (shooting politicians instead of wildlife for Nat Geo, really?), and she wonders if this political party is more popular in this city than the others. At least the media gets a covered booth, providing much-appreciated shade from the intense midday sun.
She scratches at her sweaty neck and raises her camera to her face for the umpteenth time, bored - until she glances around at whoever might be going up to the pedestal to speak next, and spots him. Would anyone really miss those pale lilac eyes?
He is in a suit and tie today, still looking regal, and as aloof as ever. (Even when it's ninety-five degrees out.) Her heart thumps loudly.
She bites her lip and aims her camera at him instead, turning the flash unit off - he is looking at the crowd from his spot by the stage when her shutter opens and captures him, frozen in time. Why is he here? she wonders, and barely remembers to take her obligatory pictures when the next person comes up to speak. This time, she observes him from afar, and marvels at how he stays so damn neutral in spite of everything - the crowd, the heat, the aggravating lies that make up politics.
Her suspicions are confirmed when the man himself walks up onto the stage and greets the crowd - he introduces himself as Hyuuga Neji in a smooth baritone - Tenten's eyes widen when she realizes that he must be part of the renowned Hyuuga Corporation, and that he is both a politician and a pianist.
This time, she almost forgets to even take a picture of him. Tenten clamps her jaw shut and fiddles with her camera, looking at him through her telephoto lens (for its long range, and how it fades the background into a blur).
Hyuuga Neji talks about the taxes and roads and education, and Tenten listens - his points are concise and well-aimed, though her focus wavers after a while, and she contents herself with just listening to his voice. She wonders why he's in politics, when he seems to have more life in him when he's seated behind the piano, his fingers caressing bone-white keys. (Would that touch be just as steady on her?)
She snaps back into taking pictures when he makes to leave the stage. His pale gaze surveys the crowd once again, and she knows that he will skip looking at the journalists, who are ever-hungry for photos and gossip.
Except he doesn't.
She feels her throat go dry when his roving eyes settle on her, and her fingers grip her camera a little tighter, as if it were her safety blanket.
He looks pointedly to the far side of the square, away from the rally, and back at her.
Tenten gives a shaky nod (if he's thinking what she's thinking) and extracts herself slowly from the mess of photographers and journalists, making sure to bring her trusty backpack with her. (This is insanity, she tells herself, he doesn't even know you.)
She stumbles on the uneven ground and hopes desperately that he's not already labeling her as a klutz, moving parallel to his trajectory until the crowd thins, and he heads towards her. Tenten is very thankful that she's standing beneath the shade of a large tree when he stops within a yard of her. Up close, he is just a little taller than her, with broad shoulders, and the tiniest beads of perspiration on his forehead. He's maybe as old as she. Just as handsome as he is in her pictures.
"You missed the second half of my concert," Neji tells her evenly, pale eyes roaming over her face. Tenten freezes, and swallows. Her face flushes crimson. Was he offended by that?
"I, um, I had to go home," she mumbles weakly, slinging her camera strap onto her shoulder. "I did enjoy your music, though," she adds as an afterthought, and hopes she's forgiven for her misdemeanor.
His gaze coasts down her shirt - Tenten is very grateful that the card on her lanyard is now against her midriff instead. His attention lingers for a little longer than necessary, however, and she wonders if he's imagining-
"I saw your pictures in the magazines," Neji remarks offhandedly as his eyes meet hers again. "Impressive."
Her heart flutters. Tenten manages a weak grin and thinks she might be feeling just a little bit giddy. "Um, thanks?" she replies, shrugging. "It was my pleasure."
"Do you do headshots?" he asks abruptly. She blinks. A business opportunity? That isn't where she expects the conversation to head (or for it to head anywhere at all).
"In my studio, yeah," she answers, and remembers to pull a glossy, bent business card out of her jeans pocket. Neji's fingers are warm when he takes it from her. "I'm open to shooting outdoors as well, if you require it."
"Just Tenten?" He looks between her and the printed name on her card. "No family name?"
"I... No, no family name," she tells him, with the slightest hesitation. He doesn't need to know all the crap behind that. Neji's brows lift, just a little.
"I'll come by sometime. My portfolios need an update," he intones, and pockets her card. "Coffee?"
Tenten stares at him. And remembers that she's supposed to be stationed at the rally. "No, I gotta return in a minute. Some other time, perhaps?"
She grins awkwardly at him, and he nods at her, the faintest trace of disappointment in his eyes. "I'll be contacting you," he says, by way of parting.
"Drop me an email," Tenten tells him, excitement robbing her of breath. Hyuuga Neji in her studio? Really? What the hell is she thinking? "My schedule's not that packed yet."
She turns to leave, and feels his gaze following her all the way back to the stiflingly crowded media stand.
I am SO excited. Aren't you? ;) Hi-five to photographers and photography fans out there!