Notes: Another drabble. NejiTen, Team Gai centric. Spoilers for recent manga chapters.


Tenten is on watch high up in the barrel-like branches of an ancient oak, holding the transparent strings to a hundred kunai in her hand as she gazes at the world below. Her teammates are asleep, their unfamiliar silhouettes darker than the surrounding shadows. She finds Choza's round shape in the black but it's the only one she recognizes, the others rolled up in their sleeping bags are faceless to her.

Bells peal in the distance.

She turns her head, looking out over the tree tops to the hidden temple, listening to the rolling, majestic tones. Another year is gone and a new one is on its way. At that moment, she cannot feel any hope for it. The Fourth Great War has begun and though she is surrounded by her new division, she is alone.

She wonders where they are, whether Lee has remembered to eat his noodles, if Neji will meditate until the new sunrise. In years past they'd done these things together, with their friends, but not this year. This year the bells ring without them, but in her mind, Tenten says a prayer for all of them – for Lee, that his impetuous youth would keep him alive, - for Neji, that someone would be there to watch his blind spot now that she could not, - and for Gai, that she would see him again.

Slowly, she unwinds one of her buns and ties the long ribbon to the nearest branch, letting the ends flutter lazily in the night breeze. Lee. She looses the second ribbon from her hair and feels the dark waves ripple down her back as she ties it next to the first. Gai. She hesitates for a moment and then tears the third ribbon from the roll of bandages she carries with her. It drifts on the wind as she ties it to the branch as well, dancing whitely in the dark. Suiting, she thinks. Neji.

"Happy New Year," she murmurs.

She does not tie one for herself and minutes later she changes position to the south side of the camp where she can no longer hear the bells, but somewhere, miles away, a gray-eyed boy stops to take the single tie from his long hair and fasten it carefully amongst the wispy branches of a willow tree where he knows it will see the first dawn of a new year.