Disclaimer: I do not make money out of this fic either. Though "cash" is slang for "money"… hm… But since I don't make cash OR money, then I'm not making anything at all… sigh.
A/N: So this is my last chapter of this story… I was seriously planning to make it at least three more chapters longer, but… I don't know. This chapter had closure, and I found out it was a great way to end it.
Eve, there's a line in there for you! XD Attempt to find it! Hehe!
Hope you all enjoyed! Thanks to my faithful reviewers, you all ruled my world. I topped a hundred reviews, and though it's nothing to a lot of people, I'm very proud!
Chapter Fourteen: Ice
When Neji gained back conscience, he was aware of three things: He was drained from chakra, he was still in pain and soaking wet, and he had four people staring at him.
Blinking slowly, he vaguely noticed they were in a tiny cavern, much less cozy than the one he'd found. Shino was leaning against a wall carelessly, his hands stuffed in his pockets. Kiba and Akamaru were sitting beside Shino, eyeing Neji carefully. Hinata, meanwhile, was sitting directly besides him and was holding his hand, a worried look displayed on her pretty face.
"Neji-niisan…" she whispered softly, reaching over to touch her cousin's cheek. "Are you alright?"
"Yes," Neji whispered through a parched throat. Slowly, he sat up from his lying down position and closed his eyes as a massive headache suddenly struck him. "What time is it?"
"Who knows?" Kiba snickered obviously. "Our watches are frozen."
"You've been unconscious for less than an hour," Shino spoke up, ignoring Kiba's laughter.
But before Neji could ask further questions, Kiba took up the inquiry. "What were you doing out there, anyways? Searching for Hinata?"
Neji merely nodded as an answer, which made Kiba laugh harder. "That sure beats the old saying, 'guy chases girl until girl catches him'!"
Hinata chose to ignore the playful banter as her eyes remained transfixed on the prodigy before asking him, "Can you walk, cousin?"
Neji slowly got to his feet despite stumbling and leaned against the rock wall of the cave. His weakened body begged for sleep, craved food and water, and despite all his attempts to push it away, desired to see the woman he loved. Even though he had always pushed Tenten away from his mind in order not to miss her, now he allowed the weight of knowing she was far from him to crush his mind. His words only tumbling out by sheer longing, he murmured, "I can walk. Let's leave right away; I know a place where we can go."
Willing herself to ignore the fact that Temari was now sleeping in Shikamaru's arms, and so was Sakura in Lee's, Tenten balled up her fists in anger. Anger and sadness. That nagging feeling that Neji needed her was overwhelming her, taunting sleep away.
Slowly, she got to her feet and made her way towards the entrance of the cave. She leaned against it slowly, shivering as the cold wind hit her and misted her with melted snow. Her eyes were dull as she looked out in the white portray in front of her. It was such a beautiful scenery. One that she'd enjoy watching, if she was sitting close to her window at home, in her small apartment.
Slowly, she turned around to look at the people. Everyone had dozed off or –in Kakashi's case- were reading. Turning back towards the opening, she took a few steps outside the cavern, instantly being hit by the choking winds. Then she took another few steps, but someone called her name.
Sighing, she painfully made her way back inside, angling her head so she wouldn't meet Gai's look of disapproval. This was the third time she'd attempted to tiptoe out of their hideout; it was the third time he called her back inside. She wouldn't even attempt to outrun him, since it was proven over and over again that he was the fastest runner of Konoha.
Reluctantly, she lifted her eyes to meet Gai's, only to find the man's face troubled. She knew that, unlike her, he wasn't just worried for one person. He was worried for two; Neji and herself. Worried that he'd die, and worried about what she'd do if this be the case.
Minutes passed, though no one stirred from their position. The fire was beginning to dim, since the logs were too wet to burn. The smell of smoke was thick in the air, though every shinobi had long gone accustomed to it.
A single, distant outcry made the kunoichi snap her eyes open. The fact that Gai and Kakashi were also looking up meant that she wasn't the only one who had heard it. Suddenly, though, a large-sized dog entered the cavern, huffing tiredly, and barked once.
Akamaru meant Kiba. Kiba probably meant Shino and Hinata. Hinata meant…
"Neji!" Tenten screamed, an act that instantly jarred everyone out of their sleep. She struggled to her feet and rushed outside without a second thought, ignoring the slanted snow that struck her.
Faded through the flurries of snowflakes, she saw four people stumbling towards her. Ignoring Gai behind her that warned it could be a trap, she ran frantically towards the shinobi. Tears dangerously felt like spilling over when she saw Neji, half conscious as he relayed on the two boys' grip to keep him standing, approaching slowly. Hinata's byakuugan was activated, though the girl's knees were trembling visibly from lack of chakra.
Tenten crossed the remaining distance just as her lover tilted his head upwards. The faintest of smiles appeared on his face, since he was much too exhausted to concentrate on such things as remaining stoic.
Kiba and Shino allowed him to stand on his own, both taking a step back as the kunoichi approached. Realizing that she was going full speed, she planted her feet firmly on the snow in an attempt to halt herself, only about five feet in front of Neji. Though it wasn't snow they were standing on, but ice. Just like it had happened a week ago, she slid directly forward, only this time, she rammed right into Neji. Too weak to even stop her, he caught her in his arms and they both tumbled backwards, thankfully hitting the cushion of snow instead of solid ice.
"Tenten…" he grunted with exhaustion as he shook his head to clear his face of snow. "I told you before, watch—"
"Watch out for the hidden ice, I know," she mumbled happily, her face buried in his wet cloak. Her arms were tightly clenched around his torso, and even though she was literally lying on top of him, she absolutely refused to move.
Hinata, even though a warm cave with her Naruto-kun was seriously inviting, took a few seconds to stare at the two. Many people were at the entrance of the cave, all smiling at the adorable scene. But Neji, instead of getting angry over the childish display of affection, wrapped his arms around the kunoichi and held her close to him, closing his lavender orbs. Sensing the two needed some time alone together, the remaining shinobi all entered the cavern, leaving them behind.
Pulling away reluctantly, Tenten eyed Neji as he remained in his position. The snow didn't seem to matter to neither of them as she lied down besides him, grinning as she laid her head on the snow besides his. It was cold, it was uncomfortable, but Neji's soothing gaze made it all worthwhile.
"I thought you'd be angry," he admitted gently, reaching over to take her hand into his. Once her lukewarm fingers touched his frozen ones, she immediately wrapped her entire hand around them to warm them up.
"I am," she grinned slightly. "But I chose to keep my anger for our next training session. It might be useful."
Neji smirked and eyed her slowly, taking in her beautiful features. He was about to suggest that they'd move inside when Tenten shuddered. "Can we go back, please? It's warmer in the cavern." Those words made him smile genuinely.
The two got up slowly, but before Tenten could take a step, he took her other hand into his. She barely had time to turn around before Neji's cold lips were on hers. But the physical coldness was ruled out by the emotional warmth that spread through her body, turning the icy pellets that fell around them useless.
They both enjoyed a few kisses before he nodded towards the cavern, his eyes half-lidded with exhaustion. With one of Tenten's hands still linked into his, he took a step forward before halting. Gently pushing Tenten a few feet left, they both went forward towards their shelter, walking safely besides the patch of ice, together.