For 2007-2008 NejiTen LJ Festival. It's sort of little scenes and moments from The Only Alliance, so I decided to add it onto here. (:
Tree ; Dove
She had been up in a tree. Hands crossed over his chest, he raised his head, irritated, straining his neck to see her in the branches. They were in one of the gardens farther away from the main buildings, and Neji didn't even know how he found her here.
"Tenten, you are no longer a child. You can't climb trees whenever it suits your fancy. Especially since you're wearing a skirt."
Her legs dangled underneath her, and she leaned over to antagonize him further and stuck her tongue out at him, straightening her skirt. He let out an indignant snort and she lifted the binoculars from her lap, ignoring him.
He grumbled, and he glared up at her, "Gai won't be pleased."
"Gai will only praise my youth, Neji. You're getting old down there."
"What are you even looking for?"
"If you came up here, I'd let you see."
And that was when fifteen-year-old Hyuuga Neji found himself trying to find space on the cramped branches of the tree.
"Your legs are too long," Tenten complained, swatting his knee away from her. He glared and said irritably, "What are you looking for?"
She passed him the binoculars, and their hands met briefly. She pulled away too quickly, and he held the heavy binoculars with one hand. She smiled, her mouth curling into one dimple, and she pointed to the branches of another tree. He gazed through the lenses, and he saw a nest, where two baby birds chirped plaintively.
"It's a bird nest."
Tenten nodded enthusiastically. Neji frowned, "This is a waste of time…"
"But Neji, these are doves."
Neji stared at her and remarked, "They aren't white."
She rolled her eyes at his ignorant comment, "Not all doves are white! I think these are oriental turtle doves."
"Well, oriental turtle doves are usually from southern Japan, not from up here! I wonder where their mother is…"
The chirping was added by another and Tenten grabbed the binoculars from Neji's hand. Neji thought she looked rather silly, since Tenten had a habit of biting her lip when she was concentrating, and she whispered, "Oh, their mother is back."
"I'm going down now," Neji said, and Tenten nodded, handing him the binoculars as they made their way down. Neji held out his hand for the last jump, and Tenten took it gratefully.
"I hope they can adapt safely here in this new environment," she mused.
Neji glanced down at his companion, and he smiled, "Just the way we did?"
She chuckled, repeating, "Just the way we did."
The first sip went down warm and bitter down her throat, and she wondered how this could possibly be enjoyable, or why the Academy was offering it to underage students. She picked up the wine flute as elegantly as she could, since she was one of the few scholarship students in their year. Lee was sitting next to her, sipping at his water. Gai-sensei had already proved Lee could not handle the least amount of alcohol, and was a complete violent embarrassment that almost sexually harassed her.
It was then when Neji had introduced her to his younger cousin, Hinata, for the first time. She was a pleasant petite girl with the same eyes and a lost expression on her face. Tenten had smiled kindly towards the younger girl, and Neji moved carefully around her, one hand ready to catch her should she fall.
Tenten later asked Lee, when she had drank both his and Gai's flutes later, if Neji was in love with his own cousin. Lee told her that's not possible, but Tenten was convinced, and glanced at Neji across the long expanse of the ballroom. His family was an important contributor of money and resources to the Academy, and it was his duty to accompany them as a student of the Academy.
She grumbled, and Lee reassured her that Neji liked independent girls that he would be confident would never stray from his side.
Tenten didn't remember any of this the next morning, and Neji looked exceptionally angry when he needed one hand ready to catch her should she fall from her mild hangover.
When Ino called Hyuuga Neji to tell him about Tenten's blind date with Uchiha Sasuke, he had not been at the least bit mature about it.
"Hello, Hinata-sama, is everything well?"
"Neji! It's Ino!"
"Wait! There's important news to tell you-"
"If it's from you, then it is not very important."
"You have ten seconds."
Ino snorted, "I can say it in five – Tenten's going on a date with Uchiha Sasuke."
There was a silence, and Ino could scarcely hear his breathing. Hinata looked worried and said quietly, "I don't think it was a good idea…"
"Put Hinata on the phone."
There was no suffix to her name, and Hinata's eyes widened as Ino motioned the phone at her.
"Hinata," Neji grit out, "Why is…"
There was a pause, and they both knew it was hard for Neji to say her name.
"Why is she… doing that with Uchiha?"
Ino rolled her eyes, the moody stubborn tone in the man's voice evident. Hinata covered her mouth from giggling and said too late, "Well, T-Tenten-chan hasn't really been s-seeing other g-guys…"
Neji's voice is much calmer, less brooding when he interrupts, "You can't force her to do something she does not want to."
"B-but she agreed to it."
Neji was silent again, and Ino could practically feel the violent aura from the speaker. Hinata was getting the goose bumps.
There was a disconnected tone then, and Ino laughed maliciously, "The dude's jealous."
Hinata frowned, her nose scrunching up, "I don't think this is such a good idea to get N-Neji involved, Ino."
"It makes it much more fun!" Ino giggled, phoning Neji again.
"Meet me outside Hinata's apartment at 7:15. Sasuke's going to come and pick her up at 7:00, so we have to leave a little later."
"I'm not going."
"You're really letting Tenten go on a date with the Uchiha Sasuke?"
"It doesn't matter what she does with her life, I am not part of it."
Ino mouthed 'you want to be' into the receiver and sighed audibly, "Look, it'll be Tenten's first date, and we're just going to make sure things go as planned."
He didn't respond, and Ino continued, "Dress nicely… oh and please restrain any urges to kill Sasuke until after the date. Bye bye!"
Ino hung up then, leaving Neji with nothing to say but listen to the disconnected tone.
When she met Hyuuga Hiashi, there was no engagement ring on her hand. That was because Neji had proposed to her the night before, suddenly and without proper Hyuuga thinking, when the sweat was drying on their backs and the blankets only partially covering themselves. Hiashi saw this as soon as Neji introduced her as his fiancée, but did not comment on it. Tenten was nervous, and although rather experienced with dealing with Neji, Hiashi seemed sterner, more dangerous, more cold-hearted.
Tenten suddenly became scared that Neji will turn out to be like this man. It would take a long time for her to realize that Hiashi was not as cold-hearted as she thought him to be, but for now, her thumb was anxiously pressing against her bare ring finger.
After the gruesome experience was over, Neji pulled Tenten out of the Hyuuga estate, into the busy market. It was there when she was eating dango and chatting with Ino that Neji had come striding in, brought her to an empty side room of the dango shop, and properly slipped a ring on her finger.
In front of him was a slightly lopsided omelette.
He didn't know how well Tenten cooked, but she must at least be better than anything Gai-sensei could make. They weren't expected to learn how to cook (it was a preposterous notion, Hyuugas had servants for domestic chores like that) but Tenten had independently chosen the course outside their group with Kurenai-sensei.
Neji raised his brows, and Tenten, clad in an apron, grinned. One hand holding a spatula rested on her hip, and some food-related goop slide down her cheek. She wiped at it impatiently with her forearm, and smiled, "Go on, try it."
Neji hesitantly poked at it with a fork. Tenten said it was an American recipe, and she really wanted to try it, and since she managed to make it, he had to eat it with American utensils.
He took one bite and then pushed the plate away. Tenten's smile dropped instantly, and she sat down across from him, her head resting on a floury hand and she looked dejectedly at the plate. A twang of guilt hit him, and he watched the way she bit her lower lips and sighed.
"Lee said it tasted good…"
Neji frowned, and Tenten leaned over to take the plate, sighing, "I guess I'll give it to him then."
His hand reached out and gripped the hem of her apron. Tenten turned, beaming at him.
He took a breath, and finished the rest of the omelette.
Swim class with Gai-sensei and Lee was rather unbearable. Neji didn't like water in the first place, but seeing the two in matching trunks (thankfully, it was not tighter than that) made him detest it even more.
He spotted Tenten running towards the pool, completely passing him and stopped near the lanes where the two idiots were fooling around.
"Ah… it seems like I forgot to pack my swimsuit…" She looked pretty dismal. Instantly Gai splashed out of the water, heading towards Neji. Unnerved, Neji glared back, only for Gai to rummage in his bag next to Neji's seat. He pulled out a two-piece grass-green bikini.
Neji almost smiled at the fact Gai carried bikinis with him, but his teacher pushed the swimsuit towards Tenten and motioned for her to put it on in the ladies restroom.
It was the first time Neji saw Tenten half-naked, and it was etched in his mind days later.
Living with Tenten wasn't easy, since she liked to throw things all over the floor. As an artist, she claimed that she needed her environment messy and spontaneous, half of which Neji believed. He considered getting a maid, but Tenten told him that such a small studio didn't need one.
Instead, she insisted they make it a game, and whoever cleaned up a room the slowest would have to wear a maid's costume. Neji didn't particularly dislike the idea, since he rather enjoyed Tenten in the maid costume (although he preferred her without any costume… or clothes in that matter). He was a rather efficient cleaner, so he mostly won.
But like all things, and due to underhanded tricks, Tenten sometimes pulled out a victory, and she was forced not to speak a word of it. Secretly, she wanted to be the only one to see and know that Neji looked better as a maid that she did.
When Tenten was sick, Neji pulled all stops out; he raised the futon, stayed home from work, and only left her side to make more broth or to fetch more pillows. He would watch her sleep in desperation, and made sure she didn't kick her blankets off during her fever.
Tenten told Ino and Hinata that Neji treated her like a queen. They found it hard to believe, and Tenten herself found it rather unbelievable. Neji wasn't really one to show affection, even to her sometimes, and he usually left early in the morning with a distant look in his eyes.
Tenten found herself wanting to get sick more often, so Neji would be there by her side all the time. She was lonely as an artist sometimes, working long hours with her own schedule but she had to meet a deadline, and sometimes she yearned to see him.
When Neji found out about her little secret, he wasn't angry at all. One morning when she wasn't sick, he stayed home and they spent the whole day together, and Tenten cherished it. He told her he would always treat her as a queen that she deserved, because she was his everything.
"Here… Neji," her voice was timid and awkward at the end of the ramble, and he stared down at the leather-bound book, held in trembling hands. It was the last time he would see her, possibly, forever. The Academy days were over, and he had to go to the Fire University, while she went to the art college that she belonged. He couldn't bring her along, she wouldn't like it.
When he opened it, his heart skipped a beat. Staring up at him was a younger version of himself. Tenten was always a skilled artist, and lines of his face were dark and devoid of innocent and he felt like this is what he looked like, this is what he must have looked like, that dark rainy night when his father died. And Tenten wanted to draw him, she wanted to show him what he really was.
He felt strong, he felt that this one person cared enough when he himself believed that no one was able to care for him.
He felt like a king.
Their wedding day is full of flutes because it was Tenten's favorite instrument. She loved the high notes that sounded like the wind, and the melodies that were soft and full in her ears. She looked beautiful in the white wedding dress, and Neji's ears lost sound of the flutes around him, or the applauding of the crowd, because all he could see, all he could sense was the woman in front of him.
He decided that this was a choice that he would never regret and that he would always cherish, and as he slipped the ring onto her finger, the flutes stopped their song and their friends cheered louder as he leaned in to kiss her not for the first time.
Neji decided one afternoon that they had to move out of the small studio, into a larger apartment complex. Tenten had been reluctant, but Neji touched her stomach tentatively, where the bulge was still growing, and told her it was necessary. She had protested, and said they could turn her drawing room into their child's room, but Neji refused, reasoned that she needed a space to draw.
In the end, Tenten had agreed, and Neji promised they would still keep the studio for now, until their child would grow up, and want to leave them, then he could live there, in his parents old studio. Tenten was absolutely positive their baby was a boy, by the way it kicked constantly like a drumbeat (even though Neji reasoned she probably did that in her mother's womb, and Tenten didn't disagree).
They packed their bags and moved to a place with a quaint neighborhood and a nearby park, because Tenten liked taking walks and feel her son's kicking match the pace of her walking.
She would constantly tell Neji that their son will grow up to be a drummer, the way he kept his rhythm inside his mother's womb. Neji disagreed, and said their son would be a strong leader, that he was kicking so early on (but she had been pregnant for a while).
But they both decided that they would not choose the route for their son, that he will find his dreams, and the love of his life, by his own ambition.
Notes: This is probably the end. Thanks for reading ! (: