(( W00, edit time. The ending seemed really awkward to me, so I changed it a little bit. Other than that, no changes were made, because I especially like the beginning. Well, now I like the ending too. Yay. ))

.: Cold Hands :.

It was snowing especially hard for a Konoha winter that morning, but a meager few inches of precipitation wouldn't stop most of the shinobi population from their daily assignments. This also applied to the three man team of Maito Gai, the "super youthful" enthusiast shinobi. Unfortunately for his pupils.

"Shovel faster! You three are at the climax of your youth; let your shovels burn with the fiery passion your souls contain!" Confidently standing at the edge of the road, Gai instructed his subordinates as they heaved pounds of thick, wet snow into piles at he sides of the street.

"Osu!" Rock Lee, taijutsu specialist of the Hidden Leaf briefly saluted his teacher before resuming the tedious handiwork, shoveling at twice his previous speed. Which was already ridiculously enthusiastic.

The other two ninja were some feet away, each half-heartedly pushing at the accursed white powder. Among them was Hyuuga Neji, the genius of his clan, although the title didn't seem very fitting for the scowling teenager. Normally, he would finish the task appointed to him with great efficiency and without any hint of qualm, but today was quite obviously different.

It had been snowing since three in the morning, and the residents of the neighbourhood had all sent in mission requests for their street to be cleared out so they could go about their daily routines normally. This, of course, all took place before six A.M. The team had been saddled with this mission, as mostly all the other genin were shoveling as well. And at exactly 6:10, Lee had burst into Neji's room and announced their task. Very loudly.

Naturally, the Hyuuga aren't usually very early risers; otherwise, the over-zealous ninja would have been detected immediately and dealt with. As it were, the whole complex was sound asleep until Lee's intrusion. Although he had taken enough care to tiptoe around the Hyuuga grounds in search of his teammate, the uncharacteristically stealthy approach was thrown out the window when he screamed in Neji's ear to wake up.

After a rather nasty encounter with approximately half the clan in which Lee somehow managed to evade internal damage, he had been thrown outside to wait. Neji, now rudely awakened, had gotten dressed, and still half asleep, put on a jacket and boots to weather the petty task. But in his grumpy daze, he had forgotten to put on his gloves. So, hands rapidly turning into blocks of ice, Hyuuga Neji reluctantly (and tiredly) shoveled the street.

As for Tenten's tale of woe… Well, she just hates going outside between November and April.

Grumbling, the weapons master heaved for what seemed like the millionth time a large pile of snow to the side. It turned out the previous snow had melted underneath it, then frozen into a thick sheet of ice under what was now nearly two feet of snow. How did Tenten know this? In a very un ninja-like manner, she slipped on it and fell backwards on to her shovel.

Fortunately, she landed on the part used to scoop up the snow, so serious injury was avoided. Unfortunately, this caused the other part of the shovel to spring up behind her and knock her head into her knees.

Briefly dazed, Tenten pointedly stated, "Ow." She blinked a few times to regain her senses, then heard sarcastically from above her, "Smooth."

She looked up to see a pale hand outstretched towards her, and smiled inwardly. Before his fight with the Kyuubi boy, Neji would never have lowered himself to helping someone else. Tenten accepted the hand and pulled herself up, then promptly let go; it was freezing cold, even through her mittens.

"Where are your gloves?" she asked immediately, rubbing her hands together. She got no answer, save a murderous look directed at Lee. "Ah."

Without hesitation, Tenten put one hand on the now greatly startled shinobi's cheek. Once again, freezing, right through her mitts. "What are you—" But before Neji could finish, she dropped her hand again, then grabbed his and started pulling in the other direction.

"What exactly are you doing?"

"We're going to my house," Tenten replied, not pausing to look back.

"But what about…" Neji glanced back at the road they were supposed to be shoveling, only to see the whole thing devoid of snow, Lee performing one of his infamous victory dances at the end. "Oh. In that case, I'll be going home now."

Thus ensued a tug-o-war, Tenten pulling in the direction of her house, Neji pulling in the direction of his. It was a stalemate for several minutes, until Tenten noticed the patch of ice she had slipped on ran almost the whole length of the road. Grinning confidently, she summoned all her strength and pulled in the direction of the ice.

Neji noticed her plot almost immediately, and pulled back even harder. Tenten had gained a few inches in this short time, and was now almost stepping on the ice herself. Frustrated at her teammate's stubbornness, she turned around and used both hands. She took a step backwards on to the ice, and slipped once more, dragging Neji down with her.

"What is the purpose of this anyways?" he asked impatiently, putting both hands on the ice and starting to get up. Doing the same, Tenten quipped, "In case you haven't noticed, you're freezing. What are you, cold blooded or something? Do you have to lie next to a vent to keep warm? Shouldn't you be hibernating right now?"

Standing up a little too quickly in his frustration, Neji commented drily, "Almost anybody would seem cold blooded, compared to you," before losing his balance again and falling back on to the ice. Quickly followed by Tenten, also frustrated, who all but yelled "Especially you!"

Carefully standing up and stepping off of the ice, Tenten jogged up behind Neji, who was already walking in the other direction. "Hyuuga Neji, you are coming with me whether you like it or not!" She stomped her foot for emphasis, crossing her arms childishly and glaring daggers at her arrogant teammate, who turned around and raised an eyebrow at her before continuing to walk.

When pouting at the back of his head didn't work, she turned around and called casually over her shoulder, "Y'know, this isn't any different than a few minutes ago. What if I didn't WANT you to help me up, huh? I didn't complain, I put up with it. Oh well… It's not YOUR fault I'm more of a man than you are…"

As predicted, Neji looked up at the sky for a moment before sighing heavily and turning around to face Tenten. Clearly regretting saying it, he muttered, "Let's go," before trailing after her sulkily.

Neither of the two said anything the short walk to Tenten's house, nor when she opened the door and beckoned for Neji to come in. In an even worse, if possible, mood than before, he reluctantly followed her into the kitchen where he huffily sat down on a wooden chair without a word.

After turning on the stove and putting on a pot of water, Tenten turned around to fall victim to Neji's killing glare. Leaning against the counter, she rolled her eyes and said, "Don't look at me like that, this is for your own good."

"You mean humiliation," grumbled Neji in an undertone, still staring a hole in the wall. After giving him a skeptical look, Tenten turned back around and opened the cabinet over the sink. She rummaged around in it for a bit, then quickly withdrew a strange object so it wouldn't be seen. Neji could have easily found out what it was with his Byakugan, but he couldn't have cared less, as long as he got out of there soon.

After a few minutes, the water was boiling, and still hiding the object, Tenten took the pot off the burner and turned off the stove. She did something with the strange object and the boiling water that Neji still couldn't see, then after a moment put the empty pot on the counter. Neji was, by now, at least a little curious.

In a very abrupt motion, Tenten whirled around and yelled "Think fast!" while throwing the object right at Neji. His shinobi reflexes acted up immediately, and he caught the object swiftly with one hand. Analyzing it for a second revealed three things: it was red, squishy, and very, VERY hot.

Tossing it lightly from one hand to the other to prevent any burns, Neji asked flatly, "Was that really necessary?" Grinning impishly, Tenten replied, "I was just wondering if your reflexes are as frozen as your hands."

"Neither are frozen," Neji insisted sulkily, looking pointedly the other way. Tenten sighed, then smiled coyly. In what was supposed to be a soothing tone, she crooned, "Aawwwwww… Does widdle Neji need a hug?"

This gave his attention a sharp yank. Turning back to Tenten, Neji quickly said, "No, I'm fine!" Blushing bright red, he fumbled with the hot water bottle.

Nearly laughing out loud, Tenten asked haughtily, "Oh, really? Then why so red?"

Now focusing on the floor, Neji responded in a low voice, "Because of the cold."

Tenten couldn't help but giggle at that. Composure regained, Neji asked incredulously, "What?"



Finally, she relented. "It's you, you looked so—" She managed to catch herself before finishing the sentence. Now it was her turn to blush and look the other way.

It was silent for a while, then Neji spoke up again. "Remind me again what spurred you to drag me here." Jumping at the unexpectedness of the question, Tenten tried frantically to think of an answer that didn't completely betray her feelings.

"I'll take that as an 'I don't know'."

An eyebrow twitching, the kunoichi gave an irritated look. "You're REALLY annoying sometimes, Captain Obvious."

Starting to smile at her frustrated expression, Neji replied cooly, "Likewise."

"Wipe that smirk off of your face."

"Smirk? Are you sure? It was supposed to be a victorious grin."

"Like there's a difference!"

"Oh, I'm pretty sure there is."

"Ah, jeez, I didn't know quiet people could be so bothersome!"

"You wouldn't know, would you?"

"That's it!" Marching behind the chair Neji was sitting in, Tenten grabbed the back edge in an attempt to dump him on to the floor. The attempt failed miserably, as Neji was on his feet as soon as Tenten's hands touched the chair, still sporting an annoyingly smug look.

"I'm guessing that means 'get out'."

Rolling her eyes to the cieling, the audacious brunette answered with a hint of a smile, "Amazing, you must have some sort of incredible mind-reading technique!"

Adapting a look of mock surprise, Neji asked, "How did you discover my secret?"

Now trying not to laugh, Tenten ducked her head and placed her hands on her teammate's shoulders, beginning to push him towards the door. "Off with you! Begone, begone!"

Making a few small "heh" noises, Neji raised his hands and grasped the doorknob. "Okay, okay, no need to push!"

Covering her mouth with her hand, Tenten ushered him out of the door and down off of the small front lawn, recieving a short wave before he disappeared around the corner.

She plopped down on the porch in a fit of giggles, eventually having to stop for air. It was then she noticed the absence of something warm and squishy in her hands, which were growing colder by the second. Giddy smile turning into a fearsome pout, she leapt to her feet and ran across her lawn. Sprinting down the street, trying to stuff her cold hands into the sleeves of her jacket, Tenten yelled to the rapidly retreating back of the Hyuuga genius, "NEJI! Get back here with my hot water bottle!"

(( Haaaah, much better. You'll notice I still kept the closing line, though. I just couldn't bring myself to part with it... Oh well. At least it isn't so sarcastic anymore. I think only I can put up with my sense of humor. ))