Disclaimage: This goes for the whole story. I do not own Naruto. I wish I did. Merry Christmas.
Hyuuga Neji was cold. It was a general fact. A universal theme, if you will.
All Hyuuga Nejis were cold. But see, that didn't work. Because she only knew one Hyuuga Neji and as far as she knew, he was the only Hyuuga Neji in the entire world.
At least, he was the only Hyuuga Neji in the entire world that would make the two of them stay out into god knows what hour of the night a week before Christmas while the snow was falling to practice and train until they dropped.
Yeah, she was pretty sure there was only one of those in the world. Or at least, she hoped there was only one. Just the mere idea of there being more than one quiet, mysterious, vague, and ingenious Hyuuga Neji made her shiver. And not just from the damn cold.
"Tenten, what are you doing?"
The air was shooting from his open mouth in little visible clouds of moistness. They drifted up into the space right above his head and were lost as they dissipated. His pale eyes matched the tiny snowflakes as they drifted by. He brushed one away that had gotten a little too close to his face with an impatient swipe of his hand. Then, he said it again.
"Tenten, what are you doing?"
She turned away from him, flushing and fuming at the same time. Rummaging in her nearly empty leg pouch, she came up with one of the last of her kunai that wasn't buried somewhere in the building white snow at their feet. She flipped it so the handle of it rested in the palm of her freezing bare hand. Her hands were so numb at this point that the coldness of the metal had no effect.
Neji already had his kunai in his hand, point up, muscles waiting. Tenten shifted her frozen feet a couple steps to the right. Neji's eyes narrowed slightly in response to a small, sharp, and cold breeze. That's when Tenten charged.
They fought in a flurry of new and soft snow. They were past the point of exhaustion and fighting on willpower alone. But still he forced her and still she met him. The more he pushed, the more determined she was to not let him beat her. More and more, Tenten was getting into the Rock Lee mindset: beat the stupid byakugan genius into a melting snowball.
He wasn't allowed to use his byakugan at the moment, but that didn't mean Tenten was going to go easy on him. They filled the peaceful and quiet night with harsh breathing and snow crunching. Tenten fought with more and more anger, and less and less reserve. Because this guy, now not even deserving a name, was a jerk. The biggest jerk on the planet, and selfish too. To have the nerve to drag her away from the cheer and bustle and warmth of the holidays—a time to relax and be happy—and force her to train with him. It was just ridiculous. It didn't matter now that she had agreed to come, had actually wanted to come. That when she went to open the door and found Neji there standing out in the light falling snow she had nearly exploded with warmth and giddiness.
None of that was important. What was important now was trying to crack that serene and indifferent mask this jerk had on.
Hyuuga Neji, even without the bloodline trait, could tell that Tenten was getting upset. Tenten, the girl that always had a perpetual smile, the one that always trained with him and praised him, the teammate that always managed to keep a cool head even in the face of trouble or danger. Tenten. Was getting upset. At him. At him? Really? No.
The kunai collided together in a disturbingly jarring clash. Neji and Tenten both pulled back at once, shuddering slightly from the loud and unpleasant noise. Then Neji shuffled forward a step, and Tenten charged again.
Was he sensing a bit of anger now? Resentment at having been pulled away from Christmastime preparations to train with him? He did realize it seemed a little selfish, now that he thought about it. But he had been getting restless, and for some reason, training with Tenten helped dispel the extra energy every time. Although he still wasn't sure if it was Tenten or just the training.
But Neji was definitely leaning toward the training.
They were losing control. She was losing control. Then, she finally let go all together. Flipping backwards in perfect form, she landed with her knees bent, back low, and a mess of shuriken in hand. She threw them with all the strength she had left at the pale figure in front of her. He disappeared from the spot, but Tenten was already turning.
She knew this trick. It was so, so old.
Whipping around with kunai outstretched, Tenten clashed into Neji again, just like she expected. She forgot that this was supposed to be just hand-to-hand combat, with one weapon for each person at any given time. She hit him with everything she had left: senbon, shuriken, kunai…
And, of course, the stupid prodigy escaped from every single one. But he was getting tired, a rare trait to see in Hyuuga Neji. Tenten knew, even as her strength decreased proportionately, that she'd have her opening at just about…
…NOW. She spun out in a perfectly placed back kick and before she knew what was happening, she was staggering backward into the cold, cold snow, and her left shoulder was feeling dull and dead.
And from the look on Neji's slightly startled face, what she thought had happened was exactly what had happened.
"I'm sorry," he said flatly, not sounding the slightest bit apologetic. Pins and needles suddenly jerked all up and down Tenten's left arm as her left shoulder regained feeling, chakra flowing through it again. Anger flared up as she got up from the snow, brushing herself off. The glare she gave him could have melted an ice block.
"No you're not," she snapped back. Neji was inwardly stunned, although on the outside no one would have been able to guess. He had made a mistake by letting the byakugan come naturally up to his tired defenses, yes, but that didn't mean she had to snap at him for it.
Actually, the fact that he had to call on his byakugan at all said something about how good of a fighter Tenten was. Even if he was tired.
But none of that penetrated. Neji had been truly sorry. But by the time he resolved to make it clearly known, Tenten was already gone.
"Why are you so tired?"
Tenten was sprawled on her bed, staring at her white ceiling. It had been a mistake to invite Hinata over today. Tenten was just no fun.
"Training," Tenten said simply, turning over onto her side to gaze at her pale-eyed friend. Hinata blinked at the girl lying on the bed. Tenten yawned.
"Training? It's nearly Christmas. Why would you train during the holidays?" Hinata's voice was soft, as always, making the questions into a casual inquiry that didn't demand an answer. All her questions were like that. But usually, Tenten answered every single one of them, so it didn't matter.
Except for now. Tenten contemplated the luxury of not responding for about five seconds before opening her mouth. "Ask your damn cousin," she said, and then turned to face the ceiling again.
"N-Neji?" Hinata stuttered. Contrary to popular belief, Hinata didn't stutter on every single uttered word. But she did stutter on a special handful of names. And Neji was one of them. It had never bothered Tenten before. But it bothered her now.
"Why do you stutter when you say his name?" Tenten asked before she thought. Immediately she wished she could take the question back, but she remained still on the outside. Training with Neji all the time did help with learning how to keep emotions below the surface. That was one thing he was useful for.
"I-I…I don't know…" Hinata said, looking away and out the window of Tenten's neat and tidy room. "I…I guess he intimidates me."
Tenten was surprised. She sat up and gazed at the back of Hinata's head. She hadn't expected an answer; an "I don't know" would have sufficed. But a real answer once and a while from Hinata was nice.
"You shouldn't feel intimidated," Tenten said firmly. Hinata turned her head slowly toward her friend, her eyes full of curiosity. Tenten gave Hinata her sweetest smile. "He's not all that cool or strong. He actually used the byakugan against me the other day when he wasn't supposed to."
"Oh my gosh!" Hinata gasped, suddenly reaching out and grabbing Tenten on both arms. "Are you all right?"
"No need to panic, Hinata," Tenten laughed, gently extracting herself from Hinata's iron grasp. "I think it was a good thing. Maybe I'm getting stronger." Hinata exhaled a whoosh of air, causing Tenten to smile at her again as she brought her knees up to her chest. Tenten placed her chin on her knee and contemplated the far wall.
"Do you enjoy training with him, Tenten?" Hinata then asked. Which struck Tenten as an odd question, as she had been thinking about the answer to that one all day. And she still didn't have a concrete one. Those damn Hyuuga Nejis.
"He's all right," Tenten finally decided to say. "But he is definitely the biggest jerk I know," she added after a pause.
"Since when are we having a Christmas party?" Tenten asked, full of skepticism and completely not amused. She had a big basket full of ingredients her mother had sent her to get and she was not too keen on the idea of getting waylaid by the weirdest person on the planet.
"Oh, YEAH YEAH we are!" Naruto gushed effusively. Tenten rolled her eyes, shifting her weight from the right foot to the left. "You're all invited. Even Bushy Brow. If he can move, that is." Naruto gave a low giggle and Tenten had the sudden urge to plant her foot into his face. "It's at Sakura's house and everyone's going to be there. So you better come. See ya!"
Naruto left a cloud of snow in his wake as he zoomed off. Tenten stood still, not moving, processing the new information. Sakura's house? Her parents wouldn't be happy about this…
All the little shops and houses Tenten passed were glowing in red and green florescent lighting for the holiday season. Tenten wasn't feeling too cheerful though. She had been thinking very hard lately, and the thinking was making her sink further and further into depression. Usually, she'd do anything to avoid analyzing too deep, because she knew it would only slow her down. But now she had plenty of time. Time she didn't want or need.
She followed the familiar trail of winking lights, and quickened slightly in anticipation of home, warmth, and maybe even some hot chocolate if she got lucky. But there was someone standing still a little ways away. She tilted her head in question and as she got closer, she realized the person was standing in front of her own decorated house.
And the person was…
"Neji, what are you doing here?"
He had watched her come the whole time. They stood awkwardly a few feet away from each other, the snow swirling around them in the winter wind.
"Hello," he said quietly, his face impassive. Tenten glanced at his eyes and then at her feet. "Are you busy?"
"Kind of," Tenten said. She had been planning to help her mom cook and her dad finish decorating the inside of the house. And to finish wrapping the gifts she had gotten for her friends. But no, she was only "kind of" busy.
Neji didn't say anything. He just looked at her.
"I'll be right out," she said, opening the door and leaving it open, as she dropped off the things that her mother had wanted.
"There's a Christmas party tomorrow."
"Really." Neji threw another kunai at the same tree across the clearing. Once again, the knife sunk into the wood right up to the beginning of the handle, as if the trunk was butter.
"It's at Sakura's house. They even invited Lee."
"Did they now." Neji's reaction to this piece of news was even flatter than Tenten's had been. She watched him take out another kunai and twirl it around his fingers. She found herself glaring at him. She forced herself to glare at the ground instead.
"Are you going to go?" Neji suddenly asked. Tenten tilted her head a little, still looking at the ground.
"I might. Are you going to go?"
"Not if I can help it."
Typical. Tenten couldn't help but utter a little sigh. This was Neji and this was the kind of friendship they had. If she could even call it a "friendship". It didn't feel like one. Sometimes Tenten felt like a punching bag, only needed by Neji when he wanted someone to beat up.
But Tenten never wanted to give him up. Call her crazy, but she held onto their feeble threads of acquaintance. She was always willing to be the punching bag. But lately, she'd been trying to stand up for herself. And her reward for doing so was this ever-growing chasm of silence between her and her teammate.
This was not what she wanted. Without realizing it, she sighed again, loudly. Tenten could feel the lose-lose situation settle over her like a cloud.
"I'll go if you go." Tenten jerked her head up and found Neji watching her intently.
Neji reached into his leg pouch and pulled out another kunai. He played with it again, absentmindedly. "You looked upset."
"Okay," Tenten said cautiously, not really sure where he was going with this, but wanting him to continue.
"So I'll go to the stupid party if you go." Neji threw the kunai and it landed in the tree trunk again, extending the perfectly straight line of kunai hilts already embedded. Tenten stared at him in surprise.
"Really?" she said incredulously. Neji glanced at her again and gave a slight nod. Then he turned to look back at the tree he had stabbed to death. "Time to start on a new tree," he commented, shifting a little so his back was to where Tenten was perched on a tree stump.
But Tenten didn't care. She had broken into a bright smile and the light had returned to her face. Had Neji changed, finally? Was he finally ready to loosen up a little and not always be so damn uptight? She wasn't sure, but she sure was hoping.
A dull thunk told her that Neji had resumed his tree massacring.
A/N: So, I hope I didn't fail miserably at my first attempt at a Naruto fic. I wanted to do something for the holiday season. Hopefully in this fic the characters will stay primarily in character. It's hard to do realistic romance with Naruto. But I'll try valiantly.
This will be a short story. But hopefully it will be sweet enough to rot teeth. :D
Feedback would be much much appreciated! Thank you to anyone who took precious time to read it.
Until next time...
P.S. If you can think of any Christmasy/holiday verbs for me to use as dividers, tell me! I'm already running out. Hehe. O.o''