This will be a collection of... I guess fairy tale stuff? At the moment I only have two versions of Goldilocks up for posting, but we'll see what the future brings. :P
Naruto and its characters do not belong to me.
It happens one day, when Tenten returns home from a week-long mission in Rice Country, to find that the blankets on her bed are not folded quite right.
She frowns - she always folds the blankets in quarters, but this time, they've been folded into thirds (and admittedly, they fit better beneath her pillows like that) - because she can't remember breaking her habit right before she left.
Suddenly concerned for the security of her apartment, Tenten checks the traps - the chakra trap sealing the door, and the wire traps right after that - none have been touched. The bedroom window has been locked from the inside, and the kitchen window is far too small for an ordinary human to slip in through.
She is puzzled and a little unnerved; a quick check reveals that none of her belongings have been tampered with, save for some of the things in her fridge - old vegetables have been replaced with newer ones, and the milk carton isn't the brand she usually purchases.
There aren't many she can imagine breaking into her apartment, so she confronts Neji at the first opportunity she gets, when they train at their usual spot the very next morning.
"Someone's been in my apartment," she tells him, when she approaches him meditating beneath his tree.
Neji cracks an eye open at her, nonplussed. There's a pause before he speaks. "Why do you say that?"
"Because my blankets weren't folded right when I got back from my mission," she answers. "And the food in my fridge wasn't stale. Do you happen to know anything about this?"
He frowns and tips his head sideways. "I haven't heard of unusual occurrences taking place in your apartment. Was it a lapse in memory on your part?"
Her forehead creases. "I can't imagine that happening. My memory hasn't failed me before."
Neji considers her words, shrugs. "I could follow you back after we train, and scan your apartment, just in case."
They do just that later in the evening, but Neji's Byakugan reveals nothing out of the ordinary.
"I should check for clues left behind, huh?" Tenten muses next to him, when they're standing in the doorway of her room. "Things like hair, and scents. Maybe I should ask Kiba to help with tracking the intruder down."
Neji tenses, keeping his Byakugan active even after he's given her apartment the all-clear. When Tenten notices that he's scanning her bed, and asks him about it, he gives his head a slight shake. "No, there aren't any traces of hair around. There shouldn't be any need for Inuzuka to come in."
"I didn't know you could trace things that minute," she comments, surprised. "And I didn't think you had anything against Kiba."
Neji deactivates his vision then, shrugging. "This should be an easy problem to solve. We don't need to bring other teams into this."
She raises her eyebrows at him, but doesn't object. "We'll see if this happens again, then."
There isn't a stitch out of place by the time Tenten returns from her next week-long mission. She deactivates her traps carefully, and scrutinizes every piece of furniture in the apartment. The blankets are folded in quarters, just as she's left them, and the food in her fridge is untouched.
She shrugs, and waits for Neji to return from his mission, to tell him that there weren't any intruders this time.
The next mission is two weeks long, and Tenten returns to her apartment, to find that the overflowing pile of trash in her kitchen bin has been emptied.
Her senses are atingle, and she tears the fridge door open - no rotting pile of vegetables, when she remembers leaving some spinach lying around.
More than a little unnerved, now, she closes her eyes and stretches her senses out, to detect a human presence in her home. She finds none; it doesn't make her feel any less comforted.
Her blankets are folded in quarters, though.
Mystified, Tenten goes to Kiba's this time, asking to borrow Akamaru. She tells him about her plight, remembering that Neji wouldn't like it if he knew she were getting someone outside their team involved in this. (And it couldn't be Lee doing this, nor Gai-sensei, because her traps are way too finicky for them to deal with.)
Akamaru sniffs at every corner of the apartment, giving a low whine.
"No one has been here," Kiba translates. He flicks his gaze around her small living quarters. "Either that, or your intruder has disguised his or her scent."
Tenten finds herself grumbling to Neji the next day. "I can't believe it. There clearly was someone in my home - no trash, and no veggies - but Akamaru found no trace of anyone last night."
Neji's dark eyebrows draw together. "You went to Inuzuka?"
She flops down next to where he's meditating, looking up at the tree canopy. "Yeah. I figured that he could have helped."
"You could've asked me," Neji replies, almost with a hint of annoyance in his tone.
"Well, you couldn't find anyone the last time," she retorts, propping her hands on her hips.
Neji narrows his eyes, but says nothing.
A thought occurs to her then, and Tenten glances over at her teammate. "You aren't- You aren't jealous, are you? That I asked Kiba?"
"You're free to do as you wish," he mutters, closing his eyes to return to meditation.
Tenten frowns, and looks more closely at him. "You're jealous, Neji."
He cracks his eyes open by a sliver. "I don't waste effort on trivial emotions."
"I see." (She doesn't, not really.) Tenten huffs, looks back at the trees. "Well, I'll ask Shino for help the next time, then."
Neji doesn't answer her.
Tenten enters her apartment with banked anticipation right after the next lengthy mission. She has asked Shino for some tracking bugs this time, and is confident that the bugs she hid in her apartment would have followed the intruder home.
She checks her bedroom (the blankets are folded in quarters), kitchen (fresh produce this time), and bathroom, and finds that a significant volume of her shampoo has gone.
Her heart leaps. That is a clue, right there.
Tenten races to the Aburame's, and squirms while she waits for Shino to meet her at the front door. When he finally appears, in shades and his hooded jacket, Tenten asks, "Well?"
"My kikaichu did not return at all," Shino replies, "I left them there to the last minute, in case your intruder broke in right before you got back."
"I found no trace of them," she admits, bewildered.
"The intruder may have taken them out," Shino deduces. "All the same, I am honored that you requested my help. Why? Because-"
"Here," Tenten shoves a bag of cookies into his hands, to stop Shino in his self-pitying rant. "Thank you. I appreciated your help, Shino."
Neji is miffed when she finally gets to the training grounds. He turns an accusing stare on her. "You asked the Aburame, didn't you?"
She frowns. "Yes, but how did you- Surely you weren't spying on me, Neji?"
"I wasn't." He lifts his chin, looking away. "I'm above that."
"Well, the intruder emptied the trash, left a bunch of veggies, and used half my shampoo," she grouses, folding her arms. "And Shino's bugs couldn't help at all."
Neji raises an eyebrow. "Surely you'd start to appreciate the presence of this mystery person - he or she clearly isn't a thief."
"Well, it's my apartment to begin with," she grumbles. "It's creepy when you don't know who's been visiting, and getting past my most advanced traps!"
He shrugs, and gets to his feet, to begin their training. "Your intruder doesn't invade your privacy when you're back in the village - am I right?"
"Well, no. At least, not yet," she amends, thinking back on her clues. "It's probably a woman - half my shampoo was gone."
Tenten catches sight of Neji's ebony locks then, and stills.
"Hang on, it wasn't you, was it?" she asks, frowning.
Neji pauses mid-step. He turns to look at her a moment later. "Why would you think that?" he returns, pale eyes considering her. "I have my own lodgings at the Hyuuga compounds."
Tenten bites her lip. "The intruder knew to disguise his or her scent, and rid the bugs. And, he or she has long hair."
He's looking incredulously at her. "You can't be accusing me of breaking into your apartment, can you, Tenten?"
She stares at him for a moment - there was still a hint of wetness in her bath, as if the intruder had just bathed not too long before her return. With her lips pursed, Tenten crosses the distance between them, stopping behind Neji. He turns to look at her. "What are you-"
Tenten catches a handful of his silky hair, bringing it to her nose. The scent is floral - she knows it's his conditioner - but there is no evidence of her shampoo in it.
"Do you shampoo before or after you condition your hair?" she probes.
"Why do you ask?" Neji looks suspiciously at her.
"Just answer me," she insists, taking another deep whiff of his hair. There almost seems to be a trace of her shampoo - but his conditioner has set in deep, and she can't distinguish the scents, not with her sense of smell.
"I shampoo after," Neji replies, guardedly, but does not pull away.
(She vaguely decides that she likes standing close to him when they aren't in the middle of sparring, after all.)
Tenten releases his hair, but the mystery is never far from her mind.
On her return from the next long mission, Tenten skips checking the traps, and goes straight to her bathroom - half the shampoo is gone again, and the bar of soap is just the slightest bit soft. The floor is damp - and so is one of her towels.
There are fresh vegetables in the fridge, all over again, and Tenten saves the bedroom inspection for last.
Her window is locked, as it should be, and her bed is made. This time, however, she presses her nose to the pillows, and inhales - nothing out of the ordinary.
She flips the pillows over, inhales again-
And finds that she recognizes those floral notes.
Neji looks at her curiously when they train the next morning, but does not say a word. She reserves her accusations; deep inside, though, her belly is flipping on itself like a slippery fish.
Tenten returns a few days early on the next mission; she has pulled all the stops and pushed her cell in order to return home way before the expected completion date, and as she stops before her apartment door, chakra suppressed, she senses him inside.
The traps are easily disabled - she hasn't bothered to set any elaborate ones this time, and there isn't a sound in the apartment when she steps in, slipping out of her shoes at the door.
He's in the bathroom - her senses tell her as much - and Tenten heads first to her bedroom.
Her blanket is folded, in thirds, at the foot of her bed, and there are creases on the pillows, evidence of having been used. Her cheeks heat.
Tenten sets her backpack down, pads over to the bathroom. Her heart slams against her ribs.
She turns the knob slowly, and pushes the door ajar, so as not to startle him into an absolute defense.
Neji stares at her from the bath (he's standing stark naked with his back to the wall), hands paused in the middle of lathering conditioner through his hair.
Tenten realizes that she isn't able to rouse any anger towards him. "I figured it was you," she says dryly.
He swallows; his nostrils flare, but he does not reply.
"Well, I'll be waiting for an explanation outside," she informs him, and her eyes flit jerkily over him, before she beats a hasty retreat.
(Neji looks really good beneath all his clothes, despite how conservatively he dresses.)
Tenten paces in her living room, her mind twisting upon itself. Neji has been sleeping in her bed. Showering in her bathroom. She's felt a lot more comfortable ever since she discovered that he's the one spending time in her apartment, though the only question in her mind, really, is Why?
He emerges from her bathroom with a towel around his waist and his hair bundled in another, and Tenten stops in her tracks, her throat dry.
"Give me a moment," Neji says, and she watches as he slips into her bedroom, to where he probably stored his clothes. Her mind wanders. Tenten tugs uncomfortably at her collar, feeling a little too warm in Neji's presence.
"How did you get in?" she demands, when he steps out of her room, fully dressed in his clan robes, hair still wrapped in a towel. There's a simple bandage concealing his forehead.
Neji glances at her, chagrined, and seats himself on her couch. "The bedroom window. I undid the lock with chakra." When she stares at him, dumbfounded, he continues, "I wasn't expecting you to be back this soon."
She eventually manages to move her tongue. "I made sure to return early this time." Tenten finds that it's easier to keep talking, now that she's begun, so she doesn't stop. "Why, Neji? Why hide this from me? I could've just given you a key if you asked."
He looks uncomfortably at her, and back at her coffee table. "I wasn't sure if you'd mind. It seemed wiser not to anger you any further."
"And so you snuck in?" Tenten frowns, getting to her feet. "That isn't going to make me any happier, thinking some weird creep was somehow getting into my apartment every time I left."
Neji winces. "I'm sorry."
"Why my apartment, anyway?" She crouches in front of him, to meet his gaze. "You said you have lodgings at the Hyuuga compounds."
He glances away, unwilling to return her stare. "It feels more like home here."
Tenten stares at him for long heartbeats. "Like... home?"
A noncommittal shrug. "You feel like home."
"What's that supposed to mean, Neji?" Tenten frowns, not quite daring to believe the weight behind his words. She swallows, and reaches out, touching his chin to draw his gaze to her.
"I feel comfortable around you." Neji shifts his weight, and looks towards her bedroom. "I'll leave now, if you wish me to."
"No," she says, when he makes to stand. "That wasn't what I meant."
His pale gaze flickers back to her. "It wasn't?"
Tenten inhales, and wraps her arms around his chest, pulling herself towards him. "No. I wouldn't have minded if you asked to stay here in the first place, idiot."
"Does it mean you mind now, then?" Neji tenses in her embrace, uncertain.
She smiles into his shoulder. "No. But I still wish you'd told me earlier, instead of having me worry about weird creeps."
"I'm sorry," he murmurs, and she presses her nose into his neck. There is a light floral scent on him, that is very familiar by now. His arms eventually find their way around her, tentativeness heavy in their touch.
Tenten fishes around in her pocket a moment later, and pulls her spare key out. "Here," she tells him, waiting until he's taken the key from her. "I figured you'd want this."
Neji looks between her and the key, blinking. "Are you sure about this?"
"Yeah." She finally grins, and kisses him on the cheek. "As long as it's you in my home, and not some stranger. And don't invite Lee in - he makes a mess sometimes."
The corners of his lips quirk. "I wouldn't want to give him the wrong impression."
"No, we wouldn't," she agrees.
"I'll sleep on the couch," Neji offers, pulling back slightly. He doesn't quite seem to mind her proximity - not that she does, either.
"You were fine with sleeping in my bed, though," Tenten reminds him, slyly.
Neji glances away, a light flush rising to his cheeks. "It was comfortable."
"You liked it there." Not a question.
He doesn't respond.
"We should share it," Tenten whispers next, and Neji's gaze flies back to hers, shocked.
"I couldn't-" he begins.
"Yes, you could," she tells him, just as quietly, and dares to press her lips to his throat, before dragging them up, slowly, to his jaw.
He inhales sharply, but does not move, and she slants her lips over his, stealing his breath. Neji's eyes are wide when she kisses him once, slowly, savoring the velvet of his lips against hers.
"Tenten," he breathes, but she kisses him again, and he responds, slowly, uncertain, trying to mimic her actions.
"Haven't you kissed anyone before?" she teases, leaning her forehead against his, and Neji's eyes widen.
"You have?" There's a slight inflection of jealousy in his tone, that she doesn't miss.
"People who don't matter," she admits, and presses him back into the couch, settling into his lap. With a sigh, she frees his damp hair from the towel on his head, running her fingers through flower-scented locks. "You matter to me, though."
"You aren't interested in... Inuzuka?" he questions. She shakes her head. "Aburame?"
Tenten grins, and shakes her head. "It was always you, Hyuuga."
He blinks at her, surprised.
"For having eyes like yours, you sure don't see a lot, Neji," she remarks lightly, lowering her lips to his with a smile.
He doesn't answer her for the longest time.
A/N: Inspired by the Gardening drabble I wrote a while back. ;) Bet you didn't expect that. ;)
Also, you heard it here first - I'm thinking of branching into original fiction (essentially to pay bills). No real plans yet. That's what I'm considering though. May or may not continue posting NejiTen - but I will complete whatever I started. Thoughts? :P