Title: Mockingbird
Author: Wingsover aka Cyberwolf
Theme: May, 'your hand on mine'

hush little baby don't say a word
daddy's going to buy you a mockingbird

When Jian was twenty years old, he was married to the top kunoichi in his year amidst much murmuring. The difference in their stations was wide – he was only the child of refugees from the Yong Empire in the east, people who still could not speak the Nippon of the shinobi nations without an obvious accent. She was from one of the village's most prestigious clans – not a direct-line descendant, so she would never be clan head or even close, but she still carried in her veins one of the oldest and most precious bloodlines of Konoha.

Jian would have liked to think that they chose him for his merit, as he was one of the top-rated ANBU and also a certified blademaster, but he knew that wasn't the case. The marriage was arranged because his parents were wealthy – and because Yukino could never have children. Her clan would be losing no future heirs to outlander blood.

Despite all this, the marriage was amiable enough. Jian and Yukino were alike enough not to be argumentative, and they adjusted easily to their new life. They did not love each other, but they were becoming friendly. They were friendly enough that, loosened by alcohol, they could turn to each other and find release for the demands of their young bodies in each other.

Then, against all odds, Yukino became pregnant.

His parents were overjoyed when they heard; Yukino's clan was conflicted. Jian and Yukino, still young and still ambitious and still adjusting to their new life, were confused and a little shocked. None of them had ever anticipated this. They awkwardly made plans for this new, unexpected development, while the clan argued heatedly about purebloods and breeding and arrangements for fostering.

Things passed and the world whirled, and suddenly Yukino was shrieking in pain, and Jian was rushing to the hospital with her heavy and writhing and wet in his arms; silent figures in green medical-gowns took her away, and he followed dazedly, unable to think of anything else to do. Then there was more screaming, and doctors rushing to and from the room, and blood – so much blood – the scent heavy and thick so that he felt like fainting.

Then a new thin, high voice added its wailing to the general cacophony, and Jian staggered as if from a physical blow. His child was born.

He was a father now.

When they placed her in his arms, he felt a rush of emotion so intense he could not identify it at first. He realized it was love when he felt his face hurt from smiling so widely at the baby.

Yukino and Jian hadn't really discussed names for the baby, as they had avoided discussing anything pertaining to the new addition to their little family-unit that they did not absolutely have to. When the medic-nins approached him, asking for a name to put on the birth-certificate, Jian only murmured a name from the words whirling in his head, words like love and hurts and gods and thankyou.

"Tien," he said distractedly, tracing over the tiny, flawless features with his eyes and hardly looking at anyone else in the room at all.

"Tien. Sky. Heaven. Tien."

As he spoke, he gently stroked one miniature fist with a trembling finger, marveling at the softness and the detail and the absolute perfection of her. When the little hand opened and closed on his finger, seizing it in a marvelously firm grip, he felt his breath catch in a soft sob.

Tactfully, the medic-nin scribbling in the certificate pretended to ignore the two.

Because Tien had been premature, and such a difficult delivery, neither mother or child was allowed to leave the hospital for the next three weeks. When he wasn't at their side, Jian was turning the spare room in their house from simply a room with a crib in it to an actual nursery. His mother brought his old things, baby blankets and stuffed toys and cloth diapers and bottles. He hammered up shelves and wired soft lighting and put gauzy curtains and wooden shutters on the windows. He spent a delicious hour trying to decide on wallpaper-patterns and then the rest of the day pasting pale-rose wallpaper with tiny berries and flowers and suns and leaves up.

He built a tiny kingdom for his tiny queen.

Jian began to have nightmares. They were simple, and clearer for it – they were about Tien, and they were about her being dead.

Whenever he woke, trembling and cold-sweating and choking back screams behind his teeth, he would rush for the nursery, sometimes almost falling in his haste. He would stand over his slumbering daughter and match his panting, shuddering gasps to her own sweet soft baby-breaths until he calmed.

He would place his finger in her tiny hand and smile as she gripped it in reflex, taking comfort in that soft pressure and the sound and sight and scent of her, and he would count her breaths until the dawn.

Tien – he called her Tenten, his own nickname for her, until she learned to respond to it faster than to her real name – followed him around incessantly, crawling then toddling then walking, never satisfied with her progress, always stumbling, because she wasn't fast enough to follow him as she liked.

Whenever he left she cried and would not be consoled, not for hours. And whenever he came back her eyes – amber-gold eyes, like his – would light up and she would scream with delight, giggling and cooing and clapping her hands. Consequently Jian left less often and returned earlier.

He was always the first thing she saw in the mornings. "Good morning, cub," he would coo to her in Yong, and she would giggle, showing off a gap-toothed smile, and repeat the greeting in that lisping baby-voice he adored. He would carry her to the second floor, where there was a balcony, and sit there in the morning air and golden sunshine, teaching her words in both Yong and Nippon.

"Good morning, tree," he would tell her, lifting one chubby hand to point at a tree.

"Goo' mo'ning twee," she would repeat obediently.

"Good morning, sun," he would then say, this time in Yong.

"Goo' mo'ning sun!" she would chirp.

"Goo' mo'ning biwds. Goo' mo'ning cwouds. Goo' mo'ning apples. Goo' mo'ning stone…"

Every new word she spoke was another reason for him to love her.

Tenten was not yet three years old when her father began to teach her how to use weapons. His father – her grandfather – had come of blacksmithing stock, though now he delegated such duties to well-paid journeymen, and Jian believed that steel and fire was part of their heritage.

He started with one of his old kunai, paring it down in size, its already dulled edges further dulled and then encased in rubber to render it unable to cut delicate baby-skin, and taught her how to hold it properly, little pink fingers curling around the lambskin-wrapped handle in clumsy imitation of her father's sure grip. He taught her how to hold it so it wouldn't slip, how to put it away carefully so she would never cut herself even if the edges weren't rubber, how to spin it by the ring-end. She teethed on it, gnawing on the rubberized edges to distract from the pain of new tiny teeth.

Later he taught her how to throw little kunai and shuriken, forged himself lovingly to her exact measure, kneeling behind her and guiding her movements slowly, patiently. When he used his hand to guide hers in the throw, her small hand was engulfed by his.

Yukino left them when Tenten was six years old.

"I can't live like this," she'd told Jian as she threw things into a suitcase, her motions sharp and jerky. "I want to be a kunoichi, I want to be someone great! You…all you care about is her. You left ANBU for her! I can't do that. I won't do that. I have my own life to live!"

Jian had trouble following that argument. He had his own life to live too. It just happened that his life was Tenten.

"And…and…" Now Yukino's voice rose, becoming shrill, angry – hurting. She hurled a wad of clothing at Jian. "You won't notice if I'm gone, will you! She doesn't love me, you don't love me. You don't have room for me in your cozy little family. Everything in the world stops existing when that kid is in the room, doesn't it!"

Jian stared at her.

"Gods! You love each other so frigging much, you can have each other!" Yukino screamed, and went away from their lives.

Jian gazed into the air for a long while, clutching at the wadded-up clothing Yukino had flung at him. Then a tiny hand slipped into his, and he startled, dropping the clothing as he looked down at Tenten. She stared up at him with wide-bright eyes.


He scooped her up into a tight embrace, burying his nose into her sweet-smelling hair.

"I love you, Tenten. I love you so much…"

"Daddy?" Tenten asks him one day, as they walked through Konoha. Jian holds her hand in his; tightening his grip every time he felt Tenten pull away or stop.

"Yes, cub?" He uses his Yong pet-name for her. He glances back at his daughter, feeling a rush of warm affection as he watched her cock her head to one side, adopting a thoughtful attitude that he recognized from himself. The two are standing in front of the plate-glass display of a bookstore. Tenten is studying a pyramid of books, emblazoned with the title 'The Greatest Ninja in History' – textbook material, required reading for Academy students, but Tenten had displayed a strange liking for such dry reading. She dove into picture-less books that most of her peers would more likely use for katon practice with the intent focus of a born researcher.

Jian snaps out of his daughter-worshipping reverie when said daughter tugs on his hand again. "Daddy, who's the greatest kunoichi in history?"

"Hmm…I suppose that would be…Tsunade, Tsunade of the Sannin."

Even at this young age, Tenten knows of the legendary Sannin, like any child of a shinobi would, and is properly impressed. She frowns in thought and Jian wants to hug her for the little crease that appears on her brow.

"Then…then I'll be like her!" she suddenly proclaims. She looks up at her father with eyes that fairly glow with intention. "I'll be great, I'll be a great kunoichi…"

Jian suddenly hears shades of her mother in the childish voice – her mother who died a year after she had left them – and he winces.

"Let's go," he says, and pulls her away by the hand. Tenten's gaze lingers on the glass as she is tugged away.

Tenten's hand is trembling in his.

Jian looks at her, all done up in battle-ready clothes that will not tear or rip, sleeveless tang-top for mobility and pants with deep cargo pockets for her weapons. Though her hand trembles, her gaze is unflinchingly fixed on the looming structure of the Academy, and her head is held high.

His daughter will be a kunoichi. And so he doesn't ask again if she feels okay, if she wants to go home and rest, if she wants to start next year instead with the rest of her yearmates.

And so he lets go of her hand when she bolts up the steps and disappears inside.

AN: It looked a lot better in my head than when I wrote it down. Maybe I was addled by all the slow soft 'lullaby by Daddy' music playing. Also, tenses refused to stay coherent. :P

Originally I was supposed to write Jian dying, but by the end I couldn't bear to. There are too many fatherless-complex kids in Naruto anyway. It was also supposed to be a one-shot…