A/N: So I've been a Christmas fanatic the last few days, and I wanted to write some holiday NejiTen, and make it AU (since I haven't tried AU with them yet). There is, admittedly, no real plot here, just a little looksee at NejiTen amid the others living (sort of) regular lives at Christmastime. This piece is for Goldberry on her birthday, and she prompted me with "silver." It rather turned into some CRACK for Christmas. And I hope you like it, my sensei!!
Warning: One curse word. And snobs, hehehe.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and am making no profit from this fan fic.
The temperature had dropped twenty degrees over the weekend, making it hardly more than ten degrees above freezing, and Hyuuga Neji was becoming steadily more and more convinced that he could feel every gust of wind and every flake of snow stab through the thick, protective fabric of his winter clothes and try to ice his skin. Disgruntled, he turned pale eyes to the woman at his side.
"They seem impressively capable of taking their time to answer the door."
His wife chose not to return his piercing stare; instead, she kept her eyes on the door in front of her as though the fake evergreen wreath hanging upon it with its fake pinecones and fake crimson berries was the most interesting thing in the world. Practice had given her the ability to maintain a pleasant expression even when Tenten was freezing her hands off – if they didn't answer the door soon, she feared her fingers, even gloved, would become permanently curled around the covered dish she held. "You're just upset because the taxi's heat broke down halfway over here."
A small smirk ruined his carved-from-stone exterior. "Last I knew, you preferred to be warm driving down Broadway." The howling wind whisking past their ears and the noise of traffic behind him put an emphasis on his words.
"Is it my fault," questioned Tenten with no real venom behind her words, "that the Uchihas live on Park and it's a twenty-minute drive?"
"It took nearly fifty," Neji pointed out, "and we're late because of it."
"Fashionably, I think. You've forgotten, dear." Finally swiveling, Tenten looked up and angled a coy, unnervingly sexy look up at him. "It's Christmas Eve."
Neji considered the idea of leaning down and murmuring suggestions into her ear; something along the line of her forgetting about the Uchiha's annual Christmas Eve party, forgetting the homemade macaroni and cheese she'd incessantly fretted over all afternoon, forgetting that she'd actually taken an hour to curl her hair rather than leave it in the usual bun atop her head, and go home where it was warm and private. He would usually toss out the idea, whether or not she ever agreed to it (which she never did), but at exactly the wrong moment – or was it the right moment? Neji could have sworn he couldn't feel his ears anymore – the wreath-laden door flew open and revealed a woman in a stunning designer dress of bright scarlet.
She wore diamonds at her ears and her throat, and one on her finger behind a plain gold wedding band. There was even one shining brightly in her strawberry-colored hair, but it didn't come close to matching the gleam of her smile. "Neji! Tenten!"
"Sakura!" exclaimed Tenten in the same, anticipating voice – Neji had always wondered if by greeting each other by their names, they were each insinuating that the other was too stupid to know what they themselves were called. But he had always known better than to voice this particular wonder. "You look great. Did you wear that for the AIDS benefit?"
"No, breast cancer. Here, come inside. I didn't mean to leave you standing out on the stoop, but Sasuke couldn't uncork the wine for the life of him. Hand me your coats, and I'll – oh! Neji, what a nice sweater. And Tenten! Let me guess," Sakura murmured as she shut the door and held out her hands for her guests' jackets. "Gucci?"
"Mizrahi," Tenten replied with a smile, smoothing a hand down her left hip as though to straighten the simple-cut, sleeveless silver satin cocktail dress she wore.
"Ino would have known. She's not here tonight," Sakura went on animatedly. "God knows she went to some party at her new boyfriend's house, I would've killed her if it wasn't Christmas; spirit and all that. Anyway—"
Neji admired, somehow, that Sakura didn't need to take a breath between sentences.
"—I'll drop your coats off in our room. There are drinks in the dining room, and you can set your dish in the kitchen."
Every year, the pretense had Neji wanting to desperately grab the large spoon from beneath the foil on Tenten's macaroni and cheese and gouge out his eyes with it. And every year it was Tenten politely fielding all of the formalities, letting Neji stay in his comfort zone of total detachment, and setting her hand on his arm to remind him that he didn't have to worry because it was only one night a year.
"I would never think she works for the government with you," Neji muttered when Sakura left them in the foyer of the grand Uchiha condo.
"She's a genius doctor," Tenten assured him, moving to the left where she knew the kitchen to be. "Did I tell you she's just been promoted to lead the committee on—Neji, you'll make me drop this!"
Neji abated her fear by steadying the precariously teetering dish with one hand, allowing him to run his fingers over the satin on the back of her thighs. He couldn't repress a small grin when his wife narrowed her eyes at him. "Mizrahi," he murmured, "apparently turns me on."
She emitted a short snort of disbelief. "You better watch it, you still have to meet with the others from your department, and God knows it would ruin your career if they saw you actually looking happy." But there was a twinkle in her eye. "Let me go find somewhere to put this. You go on in." Tenten pulled away and wandered off in the direction of the kitchen. Neji scowled to himself for a moment, then stepped into the next room from where bits of chatter could be heard.
The Hyuugas were a more prominent couple in New York City. Married for only three years so far, Tenten was a twenty-seven year-old governmental consultant on matters regarding citizen rights for weapon use. She held a large influence over the city council, and it was often her personal decision that determined the rights and wrongs of self-defense artillery on the entire East Coast. Neji, only a few months older than Tenten, worked as a partner of Hyuuga & Nara, a prestigious uptown law firm. He was, as the New York Times had stated on more than one occasion, a ball buster, and between he and Tenten, their domestic income was enough to begin a whole new string of charity organizations, although he usually just let Tenten choose their annual Christmas gift recipient (the 2006 choice had been St. Jude's Children's Hospital).
Entering the "parlor," a room right off the foyer, where pre-dinner drinks were being served, Neji found his fellow attorney Shikamaru Nara and Nara's two-year fiancée, Temari, sitting on the couch listening to another speaker. Temari, a rising actress in a revival of a Neil Simon play on Broadway, was dressed elegantly but wore her hair in the outlandish, multi-ponytail style that had gotten her on the front page on Tony night last summer.
On the other side of the room, Neji spotted his cousin, Hinata Hyuuga-Uzumaki (a name that gave the punch to the gut that Hinata could never deliver), sitting in a chintz armchair. Her husband, the extroverted Naruto Uzumaki, stood behind her, talking a mile a minute while Hinata sat with a quiet, genuine smile. They had married just last August, it being their first Christmas together, and both of them looked highly pleased in their own way. Naruto kept a hand on her shoulder while he relayed some meaningless tale about how his newest employee had nearly spilled a holder of scalding butter over the legs of a lobster-eating customer. (Naruto was the owner and head chef of one of Fifth Avenue's most successful restaurants, a steak and seafood sit-down place made perfectly vogue by his wife, a top interior designer.)
The only person in the room without a significant other by his side was the host of this particular Christmas Eve party, Sasuke Uchiha himself. No one in the room knew exactly how Sasuke made his fortune. He was, by reputation, an agent of some sort, presumably for the government. His wife Sakura was considered to be one of the top five finest surgeons in the country – and possibly the world – and she had performed several politician-saving operations by the age of twenty-six. By Sakura alone, Sasuke was thought to be a good man in the eyes of the public. The Uchihas gave regularly to charity and appeared frequently at various society functions and theatre engagements, but there were rumors circulating the New York lines that he would be campaigning for governor before 20015.
And it was Sasuke who took notice of the newest guest first. Rising to his feet, he held out his hand. "How are you, Neji?"
Neji allowed a small grimace substituting for a smile to peek through as he took the slightly younger man's hand and shook. "Well, thanks." Why did Tenten insist every year that this party was one they had to attend when it was obvious they wouldn't be missed? There was already enough wealth and fame clouding the air to make a person choke. "And you?"
"Winded," admitted Sasuke, his tone almost so unchanging that it could've been called monotonous. But there was a touch of sincere exhaustion to his voice. "Sakura. She gets obsessed every Christmas. Note the ungodly quantity of décor."
Neji had noticed the holiday decorations; everything from the rugs to the staircase to the ceiling had been draped, riddled, and hung with silver…there was tulle, stars, angels, Santa Claus figurines, a massive Christmas tree bearing only argent ornaments, and all of the gift boxes beneath it were wrapped in matching ribbon and tissue. Sakura enjoyed changing the color scheme each year. Last Christmas, everything from garland to tablecloths had been red, and the season before that, gold, etc.
"It's astounding," Neji replied, not intended the word and neither a compliment or insult.
"I bet she'll do green next year." Temari grinned from the couch. Beside her, Shikamaru smirked and stood up.
"Happy holidays, Hyuuga," he greeted, shaking Neji's hand. "Though I expect it won't be very happy after tomorrow with the Kabuto case."
"Christmas drug lords vs. the People," nodded Neji, suddenly comfortable now that they were on the subject of work.
"Hey, c'mon, you guys!" called Naruto from behind Hinata's chair. "It's Christmas Eve, who wants to talk about business?"
"I don't suppose you closed Uzumaki's doors tonight?" queried Sasuke, who had for years shared a low-key rivalry with the chef, which had apparently turned into friendship or at least something that merited him an invitation to Uchiha's holiday party.
Naruto grinned. "'Course not. If I did that, no one would be able to see Hinata's great Christmas setup. Tell them what you're doing for New Year's."
Hinata, per her usual reaction to sudden attention, blushed from the roots of her hair to her neckline where a very attractive opal was strung on a gold chain. "No…no…my husband makes such a big deal." She spoke so quietly that it was nearly impossible to hear her. "I'm just doing a few displays with champagne flutes…" But the joyous Naruto barreled through her modesty.
"Pyramids! Eiffel Towers! It's an international relations kind of thing. I don't really get it," revealed Naruto with a somewhat embarrassed grin. "But we're only opening doors to adults that night…we don't want kids running into tables and breaking thousands of dollars' worth of glasses."
Everyone in the room refrained from stating that Naruto himself was graceless enough to do just that, although Temari and Sasuke both looked like they really wanted to.
Sakura flowed into the room just then. "Dinner's almost ready. It should only be about five more minutes on the chicken roast we're having, so if everyone wants to start migrating to the dining room…"
"Where's Tenten?" piped up Hinata to her cousin. "Is she here with you, Neji?"
He nodded; he'd been wondering at the whereabouts of his wife as well. "She should have been right back."
"Well, go find her!" insisted Sakura gaily, taking Sasuke's hand. "If you guys don't hurry, her food will all be gone. She made macaroni and cheese."
There was a chorus of ahhhs as Neji left the room from the opposite way everyone else was. Tenten's dish had become a popular one over the last few Christmases.
Neji located her on his second try. She hadn't been in the kitchen, so he instead went for Sasuke's and Sakura's bedroom, where he found her cursing creatively under her breath while she fiddled with something around her wrist. He stood in the doorway and watched her struggle for a handful of moments before moving inside and surveying the room, waiting for her to realize he was there.
Everything was meticulously clean, due either to the fact that Sasuke was notoriously anal-retentive or that Sakura simply was at the hospital far too often to make that much of a mess. There were little knickknacks here and there, some things personal, some not; a slim stained-glass bottle of perfume, a tube of hand cream, a change dish, a glasses case on the nightstand. A blown-up picture hung in a gilded frame on the wall beside a lacy-curtained window – the Uchihas' honeymoon in Florence. On the balcony of an Italian villa overlooking a moonlit piazza, Sakura beamed and Sasuke wore his little half-smile. She was pressing fondly to his chest.
"Shit!" Tenten's swearing brought his mind to his discontented wife, who was glaring at her wrist so hard it seemed it could fall off at any moment. "You'd think I could fasten a bracelet. What would they tell me at work? 'Chairwoman, we thought you had better skills'."
"Come on," said Neji, going to her before she could start to rag on herself. Sometimes, and only sometimes, she worried too much about the trouble it had been to be a woman in gaining charge of affairs concerning weaponry. "It's just a little…" But then he saw the bracelet. "Tenten."
At his warning tone, her face went sheepish. "I opened it before you got off work. I'm sorry!" she exclaimed, giggling a bit, when he directed a sharp look at her. "I was so curious. And it's so beautiful, Neji."
It was a delicate little bauble, a silver bracelet studded with pale stones of amber. Its varnish was only a couple shades darker than that of her dress. He had found it at a new brand of jewelry store because he had been to Tiffany's for her and all of those other huge names and had decided that this year he would try something different. The way she was cooing over it, Neji knew he had found a good gift.
But that didn't excuse her behavior.
"It was your Christmas present," he told her, seeing her grin widen as he finished fastening the bracelet. "And aren't you the one who always says we have to wait until Christmas morning?"
"Darling, you used such a lack of stealth that anyone could have been able to tell it was a velvet box beneath the reindeers on that wrapping paper at home."
The way she worded it had him wanting to laugh but he attempted to keep his demeanor stern. "Now it's unfair. I didn't—"
Tenten cut him off with a press of her mouth to his. The pressure, both unfamiliar and experienced at the same time, had Neji bringing a hand to the back of her neck to feel mahogany curls spill over his fingers. When she pulled away, she placated him with a warm, somewhat mischievous smile.
"Let's have dinner, I'm starving. Then we'll go home, and you can have at least half of your present." Grinning, she intertwined her fingers with his and pulled him from the room.
Tenten in silver and giving him a smile like that. Maybe, Neji thought, they should try to keep Christmas around all year.