Painted Blades

Kankurou's fingers flickered, sending Karasu after the escaping girl. Worried about them getting out of sight, he ordered Kuroari to block her way. It had been a while since he had had to clean out Kuroari and he was slightly reluctant to engage in the gruesome and tiring job, but spies were to be dealt with as ruthlessly as possible.

After he had extracted a sufficient amount of information out of her, of course.

"It's no use." He said as dispassionately as possible. He surveyed the girl in front of him, now trapped against a rock, Karasu's cruel blades keeping her in check. She was wearing what at first appeared to be a body-tight dress, but thin, almost invisible slits were strategically cut in the fabric in order to allow maximum movement. Dark hair was piled into two buns on top of her head, and something about her face struck faint chords of familiarity within Kankurou.

She smiled at him, confidence oozing out of her.

"You're unarmed." He told her, confused at her arrogance. "You could hide nothing in that outfit. Now, who sent you after Ganko?" Kankurou, newly jounin, had been assigned to protect the merchant from assassination. The person in front of him had just killed his client, and with nothing more than a cocktail toothpick, thrown from the other side of the room. She had been so fast, and the movement so slight, that if Kankurou hadn't caught the small look of satisfaction at a job well done cross her face, he would never have caught her.

As it was, she was still unnervingly calm, and hauntingly familiar.

"You're a shinobi yourself. You should know my answer."

"What is your name?"

She almost rolled her eyes at him. She looked 16-17, around his age. Her body in bloom, he felt slightly uncomfortable with her revealing attire. He was pretty disgusted with himself too – her name was irrelevant.

"What village are you from?"

No answer.

"Ganko isn't important enough for a war to start between our villages over him. What village are you from?" If she looked so familiar, perhaps she was from Konoha, and killing her would be embarrassingly undiplomatic.

"I would run if I were you, my companions will be here soon. And if they catch you, you will die." And before he could reply, she spat a cluster of needles into his face.

"What the-?" Kankurou swore as he jerked Karasu to protect him and the girl lunged forward, pulling a slim blade from the bottom of her shoe and stabbing him.

Only to strike wood.

"Wood?" She gasped, as the Kuraori behind her melted into humanity, and the newly appeared Kankurou pressed a kunai against her throat. What she had thought was Kankurou became the gaping opening into Kuraori.

Kankurou didn't like this situation. He preferred to keep his distance, taunting his prey whilst his puppets dealt the killing blow. Now he was the one pressed up against the female's supple form, his arm wrapped around her in a parody of a lover's embrace, the tip of his kunai wet by the beads of blood it had drawn from her skin.

Hard against her back as he was he couldn't see her face, but he had a feeling the tiny confident smile from before was long gone. She was shaking, minor spasms that arose from the knowledge that her companions were going to be too late to save her from her fate.

"Tenten." She whispered hoarsely.

"What?" A brief moment of confusion, before he realised she was answering his question from earlier. "Your name?"

"Yes."

"Are you carrying any other weapons?" He asked, trying to stay objective with a pretty girl's firm buttocks pressed into his groin.

A long silence ensued. He was about to ask again, and re-enforce the question with a little violence, when she answered.

"Yes."

"Where?" Stupid question, he told himself. She had nothing except her clothing. So, right hand still pressing the kunai against her throat, he slowly trailed his left hand down her body, feeling for the hard touch of metal hidden under cloth. Down along her back, spreading out to front across her stomach… he didn't dare check her legs, because she might use that vulnerable moment to take advantage of his inability to drive the kunai home and attack him.

From the stitching of the decorations on her hips he pulled forth five tiny needles, as he undid her hair sharpened spikes showered down. A small locating device hidden in her right earring, poison in her left.

He smiled slightly. It seems that he had caught a very competent kunochi indeed. But his smile faded as he realised that she probably had weapons stashed in her cleavage, and between her legs.

No, Kankurou did not like having to do the dirty work. But for this kind of delicate handwork, puppets would not be as effective as him actually searching personally.

At least that's what he told himself.

His semi-gloved hand slowly slid its way down the top of Tenten's dress. He felt her stiffen involuntarily against him, professionalism struggling against teenage outrage. She was unexpectedly warm; for some reason he had expected her cold, clinical attitude to make the rest of her cold as well. Instead she radiated heat into his uncovered fingers, soft and alluring under his searching touch.

For a moment, he forgot they were professionals, engaged in the business of killing for money, forgot that they would execute each other without hesitation, and forgot that the only reason she allowed this intimate embrace was because otherwise he would slit her throat. For one single, heady moment he imagined they were just two teenagers, exploring each other from the all consuming drive of lust, and as she arched slightly against him, he thought that maybe they were in love.

But then his fingers caught the hilt of a sheathed blade, hidden under the curve of her breast. Reality shattered his temporary flight of fantasy, and he repressed the urge to bite down on her bare shoulder. Another blade lay snug under the other breast, and both of these he carefully withdrew. After all, it would be a pity to scar what he had just enjoyed.

He threw the knives to the ground and, without warning, pushed his hand between her legs. Her thighs clamped together around him, and he thought he heard her swear.

"There's nothing there." She ground out, placing her hand on his wrist, tugging at it angrily.

"So you say." He muttered, inexplicably angry himself.

"I haven't lied so far, have I?" She said almost snappily, her grip still tight on his invading hand.

"Because you know I'd kill you if you did."

"Like I'm afraid of death. I will have died fulfilling my mission, and will be honoured by my comrades."

"They'll forget you in a year or two." He was starting to have fun. This was the kind of banter he could never engage in with Gaara, for fear that Gaara would take it the wrong way and kill him, and Temari had been sent on so many missions he hadn't really had anyone to talk to. How ironic that the only decent conversation he was having was with a girl he was threatening to kill.

Her silence told him that he had hit a nerve. He felt the ridiculous urge to reassure her, then reminded himself that he was trying to destroy her moral, and that he had no idea what she was to her companions.

"I am an important member of my cell. My unique abilities mean that we cover all aspects of attack. My loss would result in - in an imbalance. Have you satisfied yourself there are no weapons there?" He slowly withdrew his hand, warmth tingling against his fingertips.

"Yes." And, for some absurd reason, he hesitated. Maybe it was because he too was unsure of his position in his cell, or at least how powerfully they would be affected by his death, maybe it was because he admired the kunochi's strength and composed attitude, or maybe it was because he had stuck his hand down her dress, whatever the reason, he hesitated.

And in that instant, she struck.

She grabbed the hand holding the kunai to her throat, and broke three of his fingers in an instant. Slamming her head back, he felt his nose break with a sickening crack, and she brought the back of her heel up to connect with his groin. Another seconde later she had kicked his legs out from underneath him, and he was on his back, unable to call his puppets to his aid with broken fingers, and unwilling to attempt anything else with the enemy sitting on his chest, a tiny dart held against his jugular.

It seems he had not searched between her legs well enough.

"It seems you have everything well in hand, Tenten." A faintly familiar male voice sounded from the trees above.

"How dare you try and kill Tenten!" An extremely familiar voice raged, before a blur of green appeared beside the two fighters.

"Don't worry Lee, I've got this under control." Tenten said all traces of strain wiped from her voice. "I can handle this."

"You didn't return to the base at the agreed time." Slight reproach coloured the white-eyed man's voice.

"Like I said, I was detained." Tenten glanced down into Kankuro's startled eyes, as if trying to convey a message. "But this was a misunderstanding. He's no danger."

"Wait, I'm from Sand." Kankuro croaked. "You fought Gaara, didn't you?" He pointed at Lee, who struck a pose.

"Yes! I am the beautiful green beast of Konoha, Rock Lee! I did indeed fight with Gaara-kun, but we have fought together as well in the glorious battle of youth! Do you know him?" Lee asked, teeth sparkling and eyes blazing, "If you know him you must indeed be a good person!"

Kankuro felt the kunochi on top of him shake slightly, as if repressing laughter, or irritation. He moved and their eyes met, as he mouthed 'Is this your team-mate?'

'Unfortunately' her facial expression seemed to reply. He repressed a smile, and once again the irony of their understanding struck him. The dart was still pressed against his throat, and she still had him locked in a paralysing position, and yet they were both trying not to laugh. And Kankuro wasn't one prone to laughter. He was more prone to leaning against a wall and making cutting comments, but it was hard to think of anything cool when he had a guy in green spandex jumping around.

"You're not injured." The white-eyed man stated, hooking Tenten's elbow and helping her up off Kankurou. In anyone else this would have seemed a kind gesture, but instead he just looked bored.

"Well, if you're from Sand, our village isn't far from here. Why not – "

"No thanks." Kankurou interrupted the enthusiastic Lee. "I've got to get back to – "

"Ah of course! We too have to return to our base, otherwise Gai-sensei will begin to get worried!"

"And we can't have that." Tenten murmured wickedly. As Kankurou gingerly stood up, blood still dripping from his wounds, she glanced over at him, taking in his condition. "You should be able to return to your people and have them heal you." She told him in a level voice. "None of us are healers, so we'd probably just make things worse."

"You still killed my target." He replied, showing a little too much teeth. "They'll want a refund."

"I'll pay you back next time." She said and although her face was blank, as befitted a ninja, he had the impression she was smirking at him. He reconnected his chakra strings with his puppets: it would be difficult to drag them home with broken fingers, but there would probably be a medic in the village he had chased Tenten out of.

"You might. But next time I will make sure you are unarmed." And with the threat of a promise still hanging in the air, they parted.