A/N: Fluff ahoy! Written for 50 Alternates and the NejiTen Festival at Livejournal. Just a fun little winter piece for the holidays.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and am making no profit from this fan fiction.
It's December 31st. He hasn't been on the ice for five minutes when he spies her gliding fluidly past tall snowbanks. She wears black leggings and a flimsy soft pink skirt beneath a long cotton coat of urban gray. Comfortable clothes, he notes. Good for ice skating at a rink. But this is a lake outside the city, frozen not by chemicals but by volatile nature, and she probably isn't warm enough even with gloved hands.
The office holiday party is (to use Shikamaru's words) a drag. Neji attends because Lee pesters him about it incessantly the entire week before, and if spending a couple hours drinking eggnog and enduring Naruto pointless chatter is what it takes close his gleaming mouth, than he does what he has to do.
His eyes, pure as the winter scene ambient there, catch sight of the rose-colored ribbons in her hair buns as they rise and stream behind her. His lips quirk. He would never have expected to see her here.
He remembers that he doesn't like eggnog and goes with champagne instead; not as fine as his uncle's, perhaps, but then, he had opted to switch companies and stay away from Hyuuga business affairs. Lee's talking continues – he couldn't have fooled himself into expecting less. But this time he actually has something to say.
She is as exhilarating out here as she is in closed walls, perhaps more so. And she hasn't seen him yet, which gives him license to watch her lift her hands to the sky as the wind and ice appears to carry her. She thinks she's alone. But he's here.
"Neji, this is Tenten. Tenten, Neji. She's new to the company, and I've been asked to show her around." Lee's smile is suspicious, particularly when he adds, "But I must speak with Kiba about a puppy he's trying to sell. Would you mind entertaining our friend?"
She is lovely in a cocktail dress of vibrant blue, modest enough to give her a good starting reputation, sexy enough to make it impossible to overlook her. She wears drop earring that twinkle behind waving strands of hair escaped from her unique style as they hang near her chocolate eyes, flecked with gold.
"Hi." Her voice sounds like Christmas bells.
He takes another quick sip of his drink to make sure he can still breathe properly. "Welcome." His sounds warding and contradicts the word of greeting, and maybe that's a good thing. He would, he somehow knows, let her near in a heartbeat.
It's likely that, like him, she hadn't had any training on skating. And it's dangerous for her to be here – no one at work has any idea that he spends much of his winter free time here because he likes the way ice feels under his bladed feet, and though he only walks – no long, artful glides for him – Neji would like to keep his no-fun all-work exterior intact.
It occurs to him that he could leave, and she, in the throes of freeing chill, would probably never realize he had been there.
"You don't seem to be enjoying yourself very much," she comments boldly, seating herself on the empty side of the lounge sofa beside him. She too drinks champagne. "Not one for parties?"
His gaze slides to hers, and he finds her true smile there. "I celebrate best on my own."
The air is biting cold, and the dark ends of his own hair whip in the gust. Her skirt flutters. Tenten reminds him of a fairy enjoying her frozen domain. And now she changing directions, coming his way, and it's too late to do anything except move slowly and admire the graceful power of her legs, the steady rhythm of movement. Compared to her, he feels bulky and awkward.
She sees him, then, and in the glow of a high light pole overhead, she is close enough for him to make out her features. There's a slight tilt to her head, and recognition enters her face.
"What about New Year's?"
She is unfazed by his stiff response. "Don't you celebrate on New Year's eve with friends or family or something?"
Memories of formal dinners and handshakes, not kisses, top the pile of thought, and Neji's mouth thins. "No."
She starts over to him, presumably to make polite small talk. Neji instantly dreads it. He's not very good at small talk and niceties. And it's late and dark. The lake is blanketed with shadow. She could laugh at him, and he wouldn't even know it.
"I didn't think you'd be the type for skating," Tenten remarks, forgoing a greeting completely, surprising him.
"Too bad. I've been to some great New Year's parties."
He makes a noncommittal sound, as though to suggest he is not nearly as fascinated by her as he is, and both of them drink. Red, green, and gold lights shine dimly on her bare shoulders, the slope of her nose, the smooth-looking column of her neck. Watching her silently is a pleasure, and she doesn't seem to require conversation, though perhaps she does enjoy it.
His concern subsides a little when he sees she isn't shivering. The exercise must be keeping her warm. Neji remembers he's been accused of being unusually susceptible to cold – that would have been Lee's statement. "I've never seen you here before," he says stoically.
"There's usually no one here this late at night," she tells him.
"Why aren't you at a party?"
She grins, a brief show of adventurousness. "I thought I'd try something new."
"I'll refill your glass."
He stands, and she wordlessly follows. The punch table is mostly abandoned by those executing in-depth conversation with other employees, but there's still one bottle left of champagne. Neji uncorks and pours, handing her the champagne flute. Her fingers, soft as snow, brush his. He is quick to pull away.
She waits calmly for him to finish and then takes the lead, meandering along the edges of the room, past the lit Christmas tree, past the holly wreathe, past display of wrapped boxes. Traditions going by.
The frosty wind carries her warm scent to him; vanilla, tinged with spice. She had smelled that way at the office. In the six days since their meeting, Neji hasn't seen Tenten. He finds the sight of her appealing, especially the unbound way she looks. No high heels, no expensive jewelry, just natural comfort.
Neji pauses, and Tenten does the same. Her expression is one of curiosity, and she follows his gaze upward. Her colored lips part almost imperceptibly as she registers the white-dotted green sprig hanging above them, a cheery scarlet bow bending as though to encourage.
Well, he thinks, this was predictable. But had he anticipated mistletoe? Not at all.
They begin skating side by side. He isn't sure which of them initiated the action.
He appreciates that she is luminous, that a light altogether different from the strings of bulbs seems to be emitted by her. It's an odd thought, far odder than one he is known to have, but Neji doesn't let go of it just yet. It's a very inviting light – or maybe she is merely inviting. Her dark eyes beckon, surely, and he steps forward—
"You have a nice stride," Tenten remarks. "Are you cold?"
He could almost smile at the question. "No."
"I'm not very traditional," he murmurs and evades her just as her fingers brush his tie. Something like regret swells inside him, and he forces it down. He doesn't even know her, this Tenten, after all.
It cold be Neji's imagination, but her light dims. Just a little. "Who is?" she replies.
"Are you making any resolutions tonight?" asks Tenten. "I've been trying to think of one."
It hadn't occurred to him. And now, snow begins to descend in cool, tiny flakes.
Her face changes, and she adds, "That's right. Sorry, that's a tradition, isn't it? You don't really..."
The Hyuuga feels the urge to say something. "I just—"
Her digital wristwatch beeps out the hour.
He watches her go, vanilla trailing behind her, and the dark corner she leaves him in is suddenly very lonely.
"Midnight," Tenten announces. "You know, it really is late. I should probably—"
His hand finds her waist, the fabric of his coat meeting hers, and her eyes fly up, wide, to stare into his. "I like some traditions," Neji tells her, "and isn't there one about New Year's?"
Her smile comes back, a slow spread, and he pulls her to him with ease on the ice. Alone with the light post and the freshly falling snow, her arms cross behind his neck, and she feels divine to him, and he feels very good himself.
Her lips are cool was grew very warm very soon. There is no one to shout "happy new year," and somehow that is perfectly all right.
They break apart, breath misting and mingling between them. They both smile.
Tenten's hand falls into Neji's. "So. That resolution?"
He tucks her to his side, his outer hand still locked in front of them, and they skate forward. "To have resolve," he says simply.
Her fingers squeeze. "I like it."