Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, nor any characters, places, things, or ideas therein. The aforementioned belong to Masashi Kishimoto and Viz Media. I am making no monetary gain from this fic in any way, shape, or form.
Summary: The rain always brought fresh and new things. Tonight, it brought the best thing in her life, and perhaps even the world. NejiTen
Author's Note: There's no particular part of the manga or anime where I picture this taking place. I've been in a mood lately where angst-y and/or death!fic have been born of my Muse, but I'm hoping to keep this one at least mostly lighthearted. This is my first time attempting to write any hardcore, focused Neji, Tenten, or Neji/Tenten, so I hope my characterizations are right. (Also, I've seen Neji's last named spelled both Hyuga and Hyuuga - I will use the latter spelling for my fic. I have also seen Tenten's name spelled Tenten and TenTen. I will be using the former in this case.) Thank you so much for checking out my story, and I hope you enjoy it!
Cool air rushed across the heated skin of her face as Tenten stepped onto the porch of Gai-sensei's home. He'd decided to make a big deal at New Years, inviting anyone and everyone who would come, including several other teams. It wasn't that she hadn't really been enjoying herself - she had - it was just rather crowded inside. And loud. She needed an escape.
To her surprise, she wasn't the first to feel that way. It didn't take her long to recognize the silhouette of her teammate, Hyuuga Neji, where he stood with his arms resting on the railing, gazing off into the distance with his blank, colorless eyes.
For a moment Tenten hovered in the doorway, unsure. Perhaps Neji wanted to remain alone, and she should just deal with the almost oppressive air inside. However, she really did want to have a chance to cool down, and being outside was the best way to do that…
Before she could make up her mind, Neji turned his head slightly to look at her out of the corner of his eye. "Tenten." He half-lifted one hand to motion for her to join him at the railing.
Breathing out a soft sigh of relief, she accepted his invitation. The floorboards of the porch felt almost cold beneath her bare feet, and she curled her toes against their rough texture. "I wasn't sure if you wanted to be alone," she admitted quietly.
"It stands to reason you wanted the same thing," Neji replied logically. "It did not seem like such a stretch to think that we could share the quiet."
A cool breeze blew through, ruffling her hair. She had been talked into wearing it differently for the New Year's party, but had started to regret it when the back of her neck had turned slick with sweat. Sighing contentedly, she reached up and gathered the thick strands into her hands, closing her eyes as she held them away from her neck.
Tenten was so focused on what she was doing that she didn't realize Neji was watching her with a peculiar look on his face until she opened her eyes. Immediately, she dropped her hair, a blush blossoming across her cheeks. "What?" she asked, somewhat defensively.
She'd halfway hoped he would look away, but of course he didn't. Neji was nothing if not direct. "I have never seen you with your hair down before," he remarked. He almost sounded surprised.
It took great effort to keep herself from lifting her hands to hide her flaming cheeks. "D-Do you want me to pull it up again?" she whispered. Perhaps letting Ino talk her into leaving her hair down hadn't been such a smart idea, after all.
This time he did turn away, as if finally sensing that his direct gaze was making her slightly uncomfortable. "No."
Disappointment swelled up in her chest. Perhaps she had been hoping he would say that he liked her hair that way, or some such thing. But Neji was Neji, and that had been a pointless hope. "All right."
The silence stretched between them, broken by the sounds of music, conversation, and laughter inside. It was only a few minutes away from the new year, but Tenten wasn't really interested in going back inside to celebrate it right on the dot with everyone else. In truth, standing on the porch with Neji, even if they were silent, was something of an ideal scenario for her.
Finally it got to the point where Tenten wanted to say something, but she didn't because she didn't want to disturb Neji, or be the one to break the silence. If someone was going to speak first, she determined that it would be Neji.
As if he knew she was thinking about him, he stirred next to her, leaning over the rail slightly to hold his hand out. "It's raining."
Tenten blinked, not having realized that the soft pattering sound just barely audible because of the louder sounds coming from inside the house was rain. Smiling, she leaned out next to him to catch a few cool drops in her own cupped palm. "I love the rain," she said wistfully.
Neji cut his eyes toward her quickly, looking almost surprised. "Really?"
This time she didn't try to battle back the blush that crept into her cheeks. "Yes. While it's here, it gives everything a refreshing shower, and when it's over, everything smells so clean, so fresh and new." Withdrawing her hand, she wiped it discreetly on her skirt before propping her elbow on the railing again, and her chin on her hand.
Her teammate, however, still stood with his hand extended, body turned halfway toward her so he could gaze openly at her. "I - had never thought of it that way." Slowly, he lowered his hand, gaze dropping along with it. "It is a fitting image."
Inside the house, the cacophony of various conversations had faded into the chorus of several raised voices chanting a single thing - the countdown to the new year. Tenten held her breath, refusing to look away from Neji, whose lips were silently moving as he mouthed the numbers along with everyone else.
"Happy New Year!" The excited cry from inside was probably heard by the rest of Konoha, though it (miraculously) didn't break the fragile bubble encasing Tenten and Neji on that little balcony just outside the chaos.
Once more, Tenten was hovering on the edge of a step. If she took it, it could change everything in her life, and she wasn't sure if she could do that. If she didn't take it, everything would remain the same, but she would forever be haunted by what if. So she took the chance, and that step forward.
Neji's gaze snapped up to hers when she entered the fringe of his personal space. His monochrome eyes widened slightly; he opened his mouth, but no sound escaped. He looked uncertain, almost like he was going to bolt.
Tenten felt her chest tighten. Had she made a mistake? Of its own accord, her left foot slid back, getting ready to remove her from his discomfort zone. Maybe even so she could bolt - she wasn't sure exactly what her own motives were at that point.
So fast she didn't see him move, his hand shot forward and latched on to her wrist. He had always been nothing less than a perfect gentleman, even in their sparring matches where she'd tried to irritate him into going at her like she was a real enemy out to kill him. This move surprised her, halting her with the tips of her toes just barely touching the cool floor. "Neji…?" Even like that, with his hand like a vice around her wrist and a strange look on his face, she wasn't afraid of him. She'd never been afraid of him, even when the Byakugan altered the contours of his face around his eyes.
Neji froze, staring at her with those wide, alien eyes of his. He looked paler than usual in the light spilling through the windows.
Swallowing hard, Tenten reached up the hand not held by his to lightly brush the pads of her fingers over the curse mark on his forehead. He flinched slightly when she touched it, but didn't move to stop her. She knew how much it bothered him; wished she had some sort of magic power that could erase it.
Tightening his hold on her wrist a little more, Neji swallowed hard. "Tenten, I-"
"Happy New Year!"
The sudden intrusion of their perpetually optimistic teammate shattered whatever had been lingering between Tenten and Neji. They hastily tore away from each other, glad for once that Rock Lee was somewhat unobservant as he crashed into them, hugging Tenten tightly as he happily chattered away to them both.
Lee's enthusiasm was contagious, so much so that Tenten couldn't help but be caught up in it. Laughing reluctantly, she patted his arm and finally pried it away from her so she could breathe. "Happy New Year to you, too, Lee," she said fondly.
The excited shinobi shouted a few more happy phrases before running back into the house, brimming with his tireless energy. It made Tenten feel suddenly nostalgic, remembering when the three of them were just kids, eager to learn everything they could from Gai-sensei. Now they were the teachers, with students of their own who looked up to them.
Feeling the smile fade off her face, Tenten turned back to Neji, heart pounding achingly. Was he regretting what had passed between them before Lee interrupted? She didn't, but if he did, she thought she might break. "Neji, I-"
He'd been waiting for her to turn her head. Capturing her face between his large, warm hands, he tilted his face down and pressed his lips to hers. The kiss was shy, brief, but it made it all the better to Tenten. It was so Neji. Had it been any other way, it wouldn't have been as perfect.
By the time Tenten opened her eyes, Neji was almost to the doorway of the house. At the threshold, he paused, glancing at her over his shoulder. His eyes suddenly seemed a little more luminous, and was that just a hint of a smile on his lips? "Happy New Year, Tenten," he whispered, then vanished.
A face-splitting smile bloomed on Tenten's lips, and she took a step forward, closing her eyes as she extended her arms to embrace the rain. But she made sure her face remained sheltered, for she wanted nothing to wash away the feel of Neji's lips on hers.
This New Year was certainly going to be one filled with promise.
I know, it's a little late for a New Year's fic, but - better late than never? Anyway, I had a lot of fun writing this fic, and I hope you really enjoyed reading it - and that I had all of the characters' "voices" right. Thanks again for taking the time to read my piece!