Author's Note: Uhm, yeah, another NejiTen. I couldn't help myself! I just had to do it. Hehehee. Set in the future. Neji and Tenten are around nineteen I should think. Please enjoy.

The Dress

Her dress was killing him. He just didn't know it yet.

He felt it only as a tightening of his muscles when he glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes, a deep breath when another man spoke with her, clearly infatuated. It was a Chinese-style dress, dark red in color with crawling vines in green and gold, the hem a little too short, the bodice just a little too tight. All of this he noticed unconsciously, seeing only the bigger picture in his white-silver eyes. It was the first time he had seen her truly dress as a woman and he hated it. At that moment, he hated her.

Her hair hung loose about her shoulder in waves. She fiddled with it sometimes, uncomfortable. He knew she was nervous, that she didn't like going undercover this way, so very far from her Konoha headband and shurikens. She had stubbornly managed to slip a kunai between her breasts though, he'd seen her do it. He had hated that, too.

She was playing the part of a local lord's mistress, a foolish man they had been hired to escort safely back to his village. There had been threats of assassination from one of his own sons, another foolish young man who thought to kill his father in order to take his power. If Neji had had his way, he would have left the two of them to murder each other. As it was, he was forced to mingle with the crowd dressed in his own black, casual clothing, a folded cloth over the curse scar on his forehead, his long hair untied. While Tenten stayed near the lord, smiling at him and allowing him to touch her hand for the sake of appearances, Neji roamed the masses for any sight of an unfriendly face. If the lord's errant son wanted to try something, what better time than during his father's birthday celebration?

The foolish Lord Yomaru seemed to be thinking the same thing for he was busy getting himself good and drunk while Tenten watched on with distaste. Really, the sooner the idiot got himself killed, the better for them all. Unfortunately, he and his teammate had been hired to keep him alive and Neji hated failing missions. Yomaru would make it through the night in one piece.

Regrettably.

"Yomaru-sama, perhaps you would like to retire?"

Neji turned slightly as the sound of Tenten's voice, pausing long enough to see her force a semblance of charm into her voice. Her face looked like she had swallowed something unpleasant and he understood why. The lord had drank himself into a stupor and was currently gazing at her with watery eyes.

"I would not want you to be too tired to travel tomorrow," she continued, looping an arm through his and leaning forward like a caring, earnest lover. Neji felt his teeth grind together but didn't bother to wonder why. It had been in their plans to remove Yomaru to his chambers if he became…difficult. Tenten would have a much easier time defending him in a room with only one entrance. Alone. By herself. With Yomaru. While Neji prowled the corridors like an alert watchdog.

He decided he hated their plan.

His eyes narrowed as Yomaru mumbled something in return and rose unsteadily, a stupid grin on his face as he stumbled, half falling into Tenten, his hand landing on her chest. Tenten's eyes widened and flared angrily but she managed to keep her temper, removing Yomaru's hand and pulling it over her shoulder to help him along. He was still speaking to her, a string of nonsense Neji ignored. He was too busy fighting down his suddenly doubled dislike for the man, for his eyes had seen what Tenten had missed: a clear intent in Yomaru's face as his hand had descended on her.

He had known from the beginning that the lord had gotten a little too much pleasure out of Tenten's role as his mistress. He was an arrogant drunkard who had always gotten his fill of wine and women with a simple wave of his arm. He was also a coward, which explained Neji's and Tenten's presence. He was just the type of person Neji despised, weak and stupid, and the fact that he had to guard him was beginning to rub the Hyuuga the wrong way. Especially since it was clear to him that Yomaru was not nearly as drunk as he was pretending to be.

Scanning the guests one more time, Neji followed the two, ready to take up his position in the hallway outside the lord's door. He reached it just as Tenten closed it. He managed to lock eyes with her and she nodded to let him know the room was clear before locking the only entrance.

Still restless and unsure as to why, he paced the nearby halls, on edge and in a terrible mood. A half an hour later he returned to Yomaru's door after making a complete circuit, pausing outside it in order to sense what was going on inside.

A murmur of voices, one low and husky, the other strained. Then there was a moment of silence before the echo of a slap reached him along with the thunk of a kunai as it embedded itself into the door from the inside.

Neji reacted without thinking, kicking open the door, lock and all, a hand full of shuriken as he spoke strongly into the dark.

"Byakugan!"

And he leapt forward as Tenten slammed her knee into Yomaru's stomach, grabbing her by the elbow and pulling her away as the lord crumbled to the floor, groaning. Neji swung her around, unsure of who he was more angry at.

"Tenten! What are you doing?" he snapped, wondering if she had just gotten them dismissed. She pulled her arm out of his grasp roughly.

"He tried to… to… seduce me," she raged in a whisper. Her fingers rose to her lips, drawing attention to the fact they were red and swollen. Something in his stomach twisted. "There was nothing in our mission that said I had to let him kiss me, Neji! I don't care who he is!" And she looked down at the whimpering lord with complete and utter loathing.

Something was rearranging itself in Neji's mind, a revelation looming on the horizon. He ignored it and replied as he was expected to.

"I thought you could handle him by yourself. I see I was mistaken."

"And I see that you are just as much a bastard as he is." She turned to leave, angry. "You stay with him then. I'll watch the front."

She had reached the doorframe when he gripped her wrist, stopping her. She turned on him with a kunai, stopping the blade a hair's width from his neck. He ignored it, looking directly into her eyes.

"We're both going to stay," he said firmly. "It's easier to keep an eye on you if you're right here in front of me."

She took the kunai away. "I've always been right here in front of you, Neji," she replied flatly, confusing him. She disengaged herself from him and went to Yomaru, dragging the now unconscious lord and dropping him into his bed with little regard.

Neji smirked and settled himself against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest, secure in the knowledge that the entire room was now well within the range of his Divination. Surprisingly, Tenten came to stand beside him, leaning back against the wall gently, the silk of her dress brushing his arm.

"I don't like him," she said firmly, as if daring him to argue.

"You don't have to like him. You just have to keep him alive."

"You don't like him, either," she accused, "I saw the way you were glaring at him earlier."

He frowned. "I was not glaring. Your dress is too short."

"What?!"

He looked over at her, annoyed. "It's no wonder he kissed you. Any man would if you wear that dress long enough."

Her voice dropped. "Any man," she repeated softly, "Any man except a Hyuuga, you mean." He stiffened and she laughed softly. "I know. I'm sorry."

He didn't look at her. "Sorry for what?"

"I'm sorry I'm not strong enough to make you want me."

Something caught in his throat and he turned just as she moved away from the wall, ready to leave him again. He caught sight of her startled face as he pushed her back, looming over her, one fist planted against the wall near her shoulder. She blinked, thrown completely off guard.

He was so close he could see his reflection in her eyes.

For one brief, endless moment he didn't now what to say. All his feelings, and lack of, where twisted inside of him in one massive knot that refused to untangle. He wasn't even sure he wanted to untangle it, for what might he read in the finished pattern? Even his sight could not tell him.

"I hate your dress," he told her finally, and leaned down to kiss her so quickly they shared the same breath. Her fingers threading through his hair as his hand cupped her cheek. When they finally parted, gasping, she smirked at him.

"I knew you did."

The End.