Disclaimer: not mine
By: Just Lovely.
Chocolate brown hair, hazel eyes and a black umbrella.
There was nothing warm about sitting huddled in the little protection of the great Oak tree. There was nothing soothing about the splatter of cold water droplets that fell onto his head. There was nothing artistic about the scene.
But there was plenty calm.
And then, suddenly, she stood in front of him. Tall but small as his eyes slid to hers and lingered a little moment too long as her heart skipped a beat or two, thumping loudly in her chest, rivalling the equally loud sound of rain pattering down. Her hair was tied into twin buns at the top of her head. She offered him her hand.
He took it, fingers clasping so easily and familiarly as she hoisted him up and under the big black umbrella she held steadily over them.
And in unison, they walked, side by side and never wavering over that five centimetre distance.
Rain was a beautiful thing, Tenten mused quietly as she sat in the warmth of the window seat, her cheek pressed softly against the cool glass pane as drops splattered against the window.
She huddled into herself, bringing her knees up to her chest as she wrapped her arms around them. Distantly, she heard his footsteps as they padded against the soft carpet of her apartment, a soft thump thump as he stopped right behind her, his hair still drenched as fallen water fell onto her head.
He stood tall and towering over her in a pair of dry clothes, a t-shirt and jeans, his hands stuffed into the denim pockets.
"Thanks." he said to her, head inclined towards her as she watched his reflection in the glass.
Their eyes met briefly before she looked away and outside to where rain fell in steady sheets. "No problem."
It was silent and then he walked out into the entryway. Tenten could hear the soft rattling of his keys in his pocket as he slid on his coat, she heard the scuff of his shoes. There was a second where he paused, hesitant, but then the door opened and closed without a goodbye.
She sighed and let her head fall into her arms.
Hyuuga Neji walked with a contemplative step, one foot in front of the other, again and again. He took his time walking, his constricted mind thinking while little beads of water tapped against the hood of his jacket. His coffee brown hair was matted against his forehead, dripping cold rain, but he didn't mind the coolness against his burning skin. It was relieving.
The Hyuuga Compound occupied a big amount of space, white against dark green and brown. It looked plain compared to all the other houses that decorated the block, but then again, it was the Hyuuga Compound. Everything about it was plain; from the plain exterior, to the white on white on white interior. But it was still home.
And with that last thought in his mind, he walked in, dripping wet and cold.
"Hinata-sama." Neji greeted politely, his form stiff as he bowed low in the presence of the 'Main' family member.
Hinata – a girl a few years younger than him – watched with distaste, not quite because of the puddle of water that slowly formed at the bottom of Neji's feet.
"It's Hinata, Neji-nii; Hi-na-ta." she responded quietly, arms crossing pointedly.
He rose an eyebrow, "...Hinata, please refrain from being in the presence of Tenten." he said, inwardly cursing himself for letting his friend have such a strong influence on his cousin. It was making her more confident and open as a person that refused to be ignored as she was now a part of his life. There no longer seemed to be a way around her.
She glanced at him, a small smile on her lips. "No can do." she answered and walked past him.
Hyuuga Hinata, his cousin and heir to head the Hyuuga family company was a peculiar little thing.
Neji shook his head with a slight shrug of his shoulders and headed up the winding centre staircase to his room.
The rain still fell outside, exploding in watery flowers as they hit the ground and hit the glass panes of his windows in what looked like cold tears.
Neji didn't have any adverse feelings toward the rain, it was just something in his opinion, quite pointless. It was cold, inconvenient for travels and schedules, and a menace for it enhanced the chances of the common cold. Utterly pointless.
Yet, the feel of water and the mere sound of it always made him think, think of everything and nothing. It made him calm in his times of anger and frustration, it made him sane in stress and tense moments, it acted like a barrier, like his own place of freedom.
It was the beginning, the first time of when he met her.
With a withdrawing sigh, Neji leaned his head back against the stiff headboard of his bed and stared blankly at the opposing wall. It was bare, void of pictures, posters, anything of what would really depict him, his character, personality. In a sense, he was just like the rest of the Hyuuga Compound, white on white on white.
He shut his eyes and could only see that whiteness.
The sun was high in the sky, not quite at its zen point but still hot and burning as its rays pooled down on the sidewalks, drying up any remainder of the rain from the day before.
Neji sulked. The light was too bright, the day too warm and the mood too happy to suit him, he liked rain, or would have even handled snow but anything but sun.
His footfalls were heavy and almost dragging against the cement of the sidewalk, placing one foot in front of the other, not even sure why he was prolonging the unwanted heated torture.
"Neji-nii, you're going to be late for school." Hinata called from in front of him, she was a little miniscule dot placed on the long, winding sidewalk that went from the Hyuuga Compound all the way to their school.
He couldn't have been bothered if it wasn't for the perfect attendance record that he kept in check and spotless of lates and absences. A sigh echoed from him and he picked up his pace, easily making the bell.
Neji had once thought that school was the most meaningful, important and beneficial aspect of his day. And although some of those thoughts were correct, it didn't make him want to change his mind about wanting the day to end faster.
It was, in a way, torture. Class was boring, something he never thought could explain something he valued as much as he valued his freedom. But it was just inexplicably useless to him.
He was woken out of his reverie as a lean elbow nudged against his arm, bone colliding with soft flesh hard enough to make him hiss and turn toward the perpetrator with a glare in his eyes.
Tenten stared back, unfazed, with her big hazel eyes. She turned back to face the front and discreetly slid a piece of crisp, rectangular cut, lined paper over to him.
Pay attention. She had scrawled with her small curlicue handwriting.
Neji made a soft snort in the back of his throat. Who was she to tell him what to do anyway? But nonetheless, he glanced slowly up to the teacher of his AP English class, her writing a little too loopy and irritating to make him want to read it, but it didn't matter as he met squarely with her stare.
She opened her mouth, lips stained a scarlet red formed an 'o' shape and before she could let out a snarky remark about his behaviour, the bell rang overhead and students rushed from the classroom.
By the time the final bell rang, signalling the end of the school day, clouds had gathered, thick as they waded over the shining sun, making it disappear from view. In a few milliseconds, the pavement was stained a wet, dark grey with splashing rain drops; water slid off vibrant green leaves as the wind howled and blew against tree branches.
It was a messy wet day.
But Neji plunged right through into it like it wasn't a menace that whipped cold water into his face, like there wasn't wind that bit through the rubbery fabric of his coat and made him cold to the very marrow of his bones.
And then it was gone, the repetitive drip drip he felt and heard as rain drops splashed onto his head was gone; replaced by the big black umbrella over him. Neji chanced a glance beside him, five centimetres away Tenten stood with a thin-lipped smile, not quite looking straight at him as she held the umbrella with a steady hand while she walked and he followed.
He nodded his head lightly at her, "Thanks."
She flashed him a brief smile and continued the trek, it was all that they said and did for the next ten minutes.
She broke the silence. "Do you need to change, or are you fine?"
Neji's head swung to the side to face her, a pale-eyed stare that looked at her surprisingly. He hesitated, a passing moment of contemplation and then he opened his mouth to reply, "If it wouldn't be a bother,"
Her head bobbed, tendrils of loose brown hair bouncing for a short time as she complied.
The rain was fast and loud, hitting against the streets and ricocheting off any surface that presented itself.
Tenten's heart beat softly but loudly in her chest, like the rhythmic beat of a drum that echoed in a fast tempo to match a song. She curled in on herself to contain the sound, feeling the reverberation tremble throughout her body in a fast moving pace that constantly reminded her of what she was getting into.
Love. Falling in love. Risking heartbreak. That's what she was getting herself into.
She leaned back against the hot surface of her heater, feeling the pricks of heat shoot through her jeans and hem of her silver sweatshirt. She would never understand her actions or the reasons that hid behind them. Because it was just like Hyuuga Neji to be a complete enigma.
Because he was a mystery, a life that lay in the ocean masked by ice, something she couldn't reach and wouldn't hope to ever.
She blinked, then. Neji stood in front of her, watching with his arms crossed, a small smirk curling at his lips in something akin to be amusement but a mix between that and annoyance.
"Is there any particular reason as to why you are looking at me like that?" he asked, his voice casual and curt.
She shrugged, no words coming to her lips. She could see his unsatisfactory frown as her hazel eyes slipped upward to meet his reaction.
"You should go get changed, you're wet." Neji pointed out, a steel undertone to his voice at having been responded to with something as vague as a shrug.
"It's water, and I'll dry, eventually." Tenten murmured, leaning her head back against the cool window behind her.
They were silent, and she wondered when they ever weren't silent. It had become routine, perhaps, something that just fell into place because she could never think of anything to say that would be continued and he would never be bothered to try.
She let the thought slip away as she heard and saw him retreat back into the entryway. There was a bitter taste in her mouth as she looked on without a word.
Neji drew his arms into the sleeves of his jacket which were still slippery with rain, there was a slight jingle as he zipped it up to his chin and slipped his feet into his wet shoes. Again, he paused, thought better of whatever he was thinking to do and opened and closed the door behind him.
It was like looking through a clear glass barrier, watching and listening but never able to make a sound.
The constant drip drip was a pleasure to his mind, a soothing lullaby to the mess his thought tornado had caused. He didn't know what to think much, anymore. Because there were too many things to think about, too many complications and never enough time to go through them all. But one thought seemed to stick out from all the rest, a neon sign against the black. Neji couldn't think of anything to say to her.
Tenten was just there, a constant in his life and a reliable presence in the rain that he had hardly had time to think of anything to say about it. It was silence that defined them, he liked to think; though he could rarely ever put a reason as to why that was so.
The week passed with clouds. The day had dark ominous masses that seemed to stabilize in the rough torrents of wind that whipped in the sky. It wasn't rainy, just dark grey, void of sunlight and sunshine.
And, seemingly to his little cousin, Hanabi, it seemed like the perfect day to camp outside.
Unfortunately, Neji had no input on this matter.
He had put up the tent; the wide, dark fabric placed delicately over top the metal poles to hold it steady. He had pulled two sleeping bags out from the basement room, one for him and the other for his cousin.
As soon as he had lit the lantern, zipped the tent entrance up and settled into the scratchy fabric of the sleeping bag; Neji heard the pelting of the sudden rainfall.
It was slow at first, a distance faint patter against the fabric of the tent, building up to a quick crescendo and suddenly, he found the fabric pitched inward, threads loosening and unwinding against the wet pressure.
Neji hurried to stuff everything back into the garbage bag he had brought. Hanabi was up and quiet beside him, her face turned upward to the sky, eyes staring at the tent top instead of the cloudy grey.
"Come on Hanabi." Neji said, tugging her along as they sprinted through the Hyuuga gardens, feet splashing in muddy puddles. He pushed her under the little shelter the overhead roof provided, opening the door as he ushered her inside and followed after.
His hair was dripping wet, falling down from its usual low ponytail as it followed the water trails already down his shirt.
"Go change, Hanabi, and get to bed." Neji instructed and prodded her in the back until she walked up the central white staircase.
She turned toward him as she reached the very top step, looking over as her wet hair slid over the railing, "Sorry, Neji-nii." she called down below, a sheepish smile on her face. And he was immediately struck with how similar she looked to her sister, Hinata, though their personalities were far more apart.
Neji nodded up at her before walking across the entryway to put the camping supplies away.
He shrugged on his rain jacket, feeling the familiar slippery surface slide over his wet sleeves and then he was out the door. No umbrella in hand but the jacket hood pulled over his head.
When Tenten opened the door, she wasn't sure what she would find. It certainly was not something that was on her top ten list but maybe made it in the first twenty.
Neji stood on the porch, rain running down his jacket, his shoes soaked through, his jeans wet as he stared forward at her.
She stared at him for a moment before realizing what he was asking. "Oh... yeah, sure. Come in." she murmured, a slight blush at her lack of courtesy before opening the door a little wider for him.
Neji stepped through after pushing his hood back, the accumulated water rushing down his back and onto the steps behind him.
"I'll get you some clothes," she said, stepping forward as he reached out to pull her back.
"No, it's alright. I'll get them, seeing as I am intruding in your home." Neji said, ever as officious and polite as he was raised to be.
Tenten felt her head nod, hazel eyes watching as he moved with ease through her house.
There was a smooth flow to his moves, as he moved to the right hallway and to the closet that held a bag of his clothes, extra for the usual occurrence in which he got wet walking home.
She closed the door and locked it before putting her kettle onto the stove. Hot water would be good for the possible cold he had coming on, she thought to herself.
She heard his footsteps already, padding quietly against her floorboards, like he was afraid she'd hear him. She caught his appearance in the reflection of the glass cased box in the shelf above the stove.
"Do you need another towel?" she asked, eyeing his still dripping hair.
Neji shook his head and walked a little ways over to her, stopping a few paces away. "Tea?" he asked, promptly receiving an affirmative.
They sat down at her kitchen table, mugs full of hot tea, a fine mist drifting above the porcelain tops.
"So... what were you doing out in the rain?" Tenten inquired, wrapping her fingers around her mug as she brought it up to her lips to take a sip.
"Walking," he responded simply, watching her.
Tenten accepted the answer. It was Hyuuga Neji she was talking to anyway, there didn't seem to be much she could expect more of him.
"It's getting late," she continued and then when she squarely met his stare with her heart thumping loud in her ears, "are you staying?"
Her invitation surprised him, edging precariously to shock. Neji hesitated, there was no harm he could see. He nodded, "If you are sure about it, then I would like to take you up on that offer."
She nodded and scraped back her chair, setting her empty mug down into the sink and then walked out to the hallway. "I'll get a few blankets and pillows, are you alright with the couch?" she called over her shoulder, her voice becoming quieter as the distance between them extended.
Neji stood and swept back his chair with the flourish of a well-grown Hyuuga. He followed after her, "The couch is alright, thank you." he replied as he took the sleeping necessities from her arms, carrying them back to her living room.
"Do you need a wake-up call tomorrow?"
"No, thank you. I am a natural early riser."
It was silent between them, the rustling of cotton against cotton as Neji set up an adequate sleeping formation on her couch.
Tenten watched him with her arms crossed, stray curls of brown hair falling into her eyes. She reached a hand up to smother her yawn, lowering it only to see Neji's emotionless eyes focused on her.
"You're tired." he noted, "I am sorry if I'm keeping you up, but please, do not mind me."
She shook her head, "I've just had a long day, that's all."
He raised a brow, questioning, "Aa." he murmured and then turned back to the couch.
"Sweet dreams, Neji." she bade him as she walked back into the hallway to her bedroom. "If you need anything, my bedroom's just over there, okay?"
The Hyuuga nodded, "Good night Tenten... you too."
Tenten shifted in her bed, uncomfortable, uneasy, as she thought about how Neji was sleeping just outside her room, on her couch, in her house. It seemed too surreal. The ticking hands of her clock left her transfixed as she thought and tried to calm the high tempo of her heart.
She let a sigh escape her and swung her bare feet over the side of her bed, meeting the cold floorboards. Her feet stepped against the floor, hesitant and slow, deliberately stopping now and then to test the creak of the floorboards, and then finally stopping at the entrance of the living room.
"Neji? Are you up?"
He sat up on the cushions and fixed a stare on her shadowed form. "Yes."
Tenten made her way over to him, stepping around the furniture. "I can't sleep, it's probably because of the tea."
"Yes, it appears so as well for me."
It was quiet, again, prolonged and stretched so thin it was enough to make Tenten shift uncomfortably on the opposite cushion.
"Can I... can I ask you a question, Neji?"
He peered at her, "You just did."
"Don't be a smart-ass, not to me," she retorted, a grin on her lips as she found it surprisingly easy to banter with him.
In the dark, she swore she could see him smirk. "Go ahead, then."
Her expression sobered as she spoke, "Why do you always come here when it rains?"
It was such a simple question, that she was surprised to find Neji stumbling for an answer. After a moment, he shrugged. "I do not really know, actually."
She hadn't expected an indefinite answer. "Okay then,"
He let the quiet wash over them again, but Tenten was not deterred. "Why don't you talk much?"
"That is three questions now." he answered wryly.
"And it'll be three answers soon, too."
"There is no specific reason, I am just not as comfortable with other people as I seem to be with you."
Tenten's hazel eyes widened a fraction and she ignored the thudding in her chest that became loud in her ears, echoing all the way to her fingers, "But you don't carry on the conversation, even if you are with me."
"You seem to be doing a good job of it."
Neji, Tenten thought, seemed to have an answer for everything, simple as it was; it made her wonder if she truly knew him at all. "How well do you think I know you?"
"That's four questions, and, it would be the same to say how well do you think I know you."
She shrugged. "Not very well, I guess."
Tenten watched him as he watched her. They didn't seem to know that much about the other, not like how they used to, not like when things were childish and easy. And now, it was all complicated and foolish.
Tenten opened the door the next morning to find consistently falling rain, sheets and sheets splattered against the front step, overflowing onto the floor underneath the door. She closed it.
"It's raining like hell outside." she stated dully, crossing into her kitchen to fix herself another cup of tea.
Neji looked up from the table, "Is it really."
She heard the sarcastic edge to his statement and turned from the stove to stare at him. "I don't need your sarcasm, you know, Neji."
There was something very refreshing about Tenten, Neji found, she was different from the Hyuugas, from him, and it made him think... it made him think that she was what freedom looked like. "My apologies."
"Yeah, you made the right decision apologizing," she muttered under her breath and sipped her tea.
He chuckled, the sound low and throaty.
Tenten openly stared, mouth slightly agape in shock. "Did you just laugh?" she couldn't help but ask.
Neji looked stunned, he cleared his throat. "Actually, it was a chuckle."
But his words fell on deaf ears as she burst out in laughter, thudding her mug down to keep the liquid from spilling out. "I didn't think I'd live to hear the sound," she managed between giggles.
He glared at her. "It is not like it's an unnatural thing."
"Now, now, Neji, don't get all stiff on me. I was just being a friend."
She smiled at him, ignoring the glare he sent to her in response; and it almost seemed like they were friends.
He found himself thinking about her, as if she was glue, forever stuck on his mind. He did not know who put her there. Neji wasn't sure what to think anymore, these days.
Neji stared at his walls, the white blurring his vision to form a bright whiteness that was soon molded into brown and hazel, laughter, a smile, tea and drops of falling rain.
The facts were drawn straight, and he found himself faced with the inevitable, the obvious and indescribable fact that he may very well be falling in love with Tenten.
Love, the very word wasn't exactly foreign, but more like a rarity; unfounded, strange and new and familiar enough to be found suddenly threading through Neji's thoughts.
He was confused and lost, confronted with something he hadn't expected nor planned for, and it made him feel unprepared and vulnerable to anything. Everything.
Tenten felt her heart thump in her chest, each reverberation reaching to the very tips of her cuticles and very ends of her toes, spreading through her like wild fire. It was never-ending, she found that she knew and accepted the fact as simple as it was; because no one could fight love. She was no exception.
She sat on her window seat, the right side of her cheek pressed against the pane of glass, feeling the cold pricks as rain collided with the surface. It was raining a lot, lately, as if the weather was perfectly in tune with her thoughts – she wanted to see Neji again.
As if on cue, a knock resounded off her door; a knock and not the ring of her doorbell.
It was typical of Neji to be so old-fashion, Tenten mused to herself as she got up and ran her fingers through her damp hair, striding to the doorway.
She opened the door and blinked.
Neji stood on her doorstep, abnormally dry (for him) in the weather, a big umbrella held in his hand, shielding him from any wayward water that would splash on him from the run-off of her roof.
"Hi," she greeted, tilting her head slightly to the side as she pondered about him.
Tenten didn't let the quiet fall over them again. She opened the door wider, "Do you want to come in?"
Surprisingly, Neji shook his head. "No thank you."
She was perfectly perplexed and at a lost as to what to do, this was not from routine. "Um... I don't mean to be rude by asking this, but what are you doing here then?"
A smirk graced the Hyuuga's lips, "Do you want to take a walk with me?" he asked, answering her question.
The brunette was surprised; it seeped into her every feature, from the furrowing of her brows to the widening of her eyes and the hammering of her heart in her throat. "Now?"
He shrugged, "Why not?"
Tenten nodded slowly and took her jacket off its hook and shrugged it on, keeping her eyes on his. She made a move for her umbrella but he shook his head at her. She stepped out from the safe comfort of her home and under his umbrella, hearing the familiar patter of rain against the shield as they began to walk.
She took it upon herself to keep the usual five centimetre distance, edging her body closer and closer to the run-off of water from the umbrella. Neji made sure she didn't move over two centimetres as he followed her movement fluidly and naturally, keeping his gaze ahead of them.
"So, what's the occasion?" she asked him, refusing to acknowledge their close proximity. She tucked her hands into her jacket pockets, ignoring the sudden clamminess of them as he looked at her.
Neji looked thoughtful to her, for a moment, something flickering in the paleness of his eyes. "Does there need to be an occasion?" he answered, finally, a question responding to her own.
"I don't know, I just think it's a little...odd."
"Odd," he repeated.
Tenten nodded. "Yeah, because it just doesn't seem like it happens much, does it?"
"I should assume it should."
She peered at him, brows raising in confusion. "What do you mean by that?"
"What do you think?"
She didn't really know what to think of that or assume from what he'd said; because the only conclusion she was drawing was something that seemed absurd in her mind. Was Neji implying that he wanted to hang out more with her? Or that he liked her?
"I don't know. Everything I come up with sounds pretty weird, actually."
She looked away from his awaiting gaze, "I'd rather not say."
Tenten saw him shrug and he didn't say anything more.
The silence was filled with falling rain, splashing and dropping with glass-clinking sounds. They continued walking aimlessly on darkened grey sidewalks, huddled under one umbrella.
When the pavement ended and the road began, Tenten took the necessary step of stepping off to cross the road. Neji drew her back with a firm hand around her wrist.
She turned to look at him as she stepped back onto the corner of the sidewalk, finding his gaze meeting hers halfway. Their eyes were unblinking, heads tilting, her tip-toeing and his half-reaching, lips sweetly brushing in a shy half-kiss.
And then, it seemed like it was exactly what Neji meant. They pulled back, never going over that five centimetre maximum.
Tenten watched him carefully with lightly dazed eyes. "You like me," she breathed, her breath fanning across his face.
"You can think that." Neji replied, slightly smirking as he cupped her face with his unoccupied hand and drew her closer.
"I know that." she smiled and pressed her lips to his in a full kiss.
A wonderful, happy clap for my beta, Kaali (Twisted In A Bottle) for all her beautiful comments and helping out with making this story presentable.
In commemoration for all the summer (April shower) weather I've been getting and how this signified my last day of freedom before I'm stuck in class daydreaming, again.
Hope you enjoyed it!