Title: Redshift
Character(s): Tenten, Hyuuga Neji, Uchiha Sasuke
Genre: drama
Warning(s): Nothing graphic, but much implied
Rating: PG-13
: Written for February theme, "Red and White".

- (noun) A redshift can occur when a light source moves away from an observer.

I didn't use to have a favorite color.

There were colors I liked better than others: pink and green for growing things, spring-colors, gray and brown for my weapons of steel and wood. But I didn't use to have a favorite color...

...white isn't even a color, really, is it?

When Team Gai was newly-formed, Neji had once caught Tenten staring intently at his eyes. It wasn't quite like the besotted gazes his fangirls had burdened him with in the Academy, nor was Neji much surprised - the Byakugan always entranced other people. But he smirked at her for it, and she had drawn back with an embarrassed, insulted expression.

She got quite good at stealing looks into his eyes during sparring sessions, inserting them between blows and strikes. She didn't think he noticed this time.

...such a pretty shade of white-silver they were.

When she outgrew her pink and green tang shirts, she replaced them with sleeved ones, this time (the better to hide wrist and forearm and shoulder holsters - as well as other things)

They were white, this time.

White is...a clean color. Clear. Bright. Soothing, sometimes.

But sometimes it's too bright. Sometimes it's sight-burning.

"Tenten. I'm giving you a B-Class mission - it's a courier mission. Shouldn't be too dangerous, but the client insists on speed - you'll need to get the jewelry there in three days."

Speed. Ah. From training with Neji - and more especially, Lee - Tenten was the fastest of the kunoichi. One of the fastest ninja, period, in the Village. It paid off in missions like this. "Jewelry, Tsunade-sama?"

"The client's daughter is having a wedding in Alinam - that's in Rain. He's decided that in lieu of attending he'll send over an heirloom ring - and several other baubles, for a wedding gift. The wedding is however in three days - and the ring is essential to the ceremony."

Tenten nodded. "I see."

"Get it there, get the payment, then come straight back." Tsunade smiled at her. "Wouldn't want to miss the Yong New Year parade, now would you?"

Tenten laughed, a little pleasantly surprised that Tsunade knew of the festival - but then again, she WAS the Hokage. "It would be fun to attend," she agreed, then bowed to the older woman.

Tsunade waved her off. "See you in a week, Tenten."

It was ironic.

Neji and Lee were the ones who had been agitating for solo A-class missions.

But I was the one who had the first solo A-class encounter.

The mission had gone off without a hitch. The first half of the payment had been deposited directly with Konoha, but the second half had been given her by a weeping, emotional bride - along with a teary hug, profuse thanks, and a "little bit extra" as appreciation for the promptness. Tenten had been proud of herself - running full out with lessened sleep had got her to Alinam in two days. She could take it a little easier on the way back, though...

As it turned out, she couldn't.

Missing Shinobi Report

Name: Tien ru Jian (aka Tenten)
Registration No. : 012573
Age: 16
Rank: Chuunin
Status: MIA

Notes: Subject was returning from B-class courier mission (see Appendix B, mission form), to Anilam, Rain Country (see Appendix A, maps) when it is believed that subject encountered S-Class missing-nin Orochimaru and A-Class missing-nin Yakushi Kabuto, on their way back from encounter with Team 7. (see Appendix D, mission report). It is believed a battle ensued, based on physical evidence. (See Appendix A, photographs) Subject was captured and/or killed - if so, the body was hidden. It is possible subject is now imprisoned within Sound Village.

It is recommended that subject's team be removed from mission-status, and confined in Konoha, temporarily.

When she awoke, the first thing she saw was light. Light glinting off someone's glasses, she realized slowly.

Yakushi Kabuto was smiling gently at her. She remembered him more from mission-briefings, and research at the library, then from running into him at her first chuunin exams. She wished he didn't remember her.

"Hallo Tenten-chan," he purred, and held up a scalpel. Suddenly the light was flashing from things aside from his glasses.

I screamed a lot. After a while, I stopped.

But only because I couldn't scream anymore.

They learned enough from her to know she didn't know much WORTH learning - she was only a chuunin weapons-user, no clan-member, no favorite of the jounin, no intimate of the high officials. She was, they realized, cannon fodder - useless.

(She smiled - as best she could - when she overheard them talking. She'd succeeded, then...her smile ended when painful coughs wracked her emaciated frame.)

She expected they'd kill her, now.

Voices over her - blurry figures flickering in and out of focus.

"I want her."

"You do?" A mocking laugh. "Is our little Sasuke-kun growing up?"

Grim stare. "Give her to me. I could use her."

A leer. "I just bet you could." A pause, then a long tongue flickering out to lick thin dark lips.

"You can have her. She shall be your pet, your responsibility, though..." he said, a disturbing parody of a father lecturing a son on a new puppy.

"...her life will be in your hands."

Sasuke gave orders for her to be transferred into his quarters - not into his room, but he had a whole wing to himself. More for no one wanting to be near him and his frightening eyes and his fire and lightnings...

Even they, hardened Sound ninja, could feel pity for the prisoner transported into his rooms.

Dark hair - pale skin - a face hovering above my own.

Hope swells inside me.

"N-neji...?" I rasp.

Then my vision clears slightly, and I become aware of the differences.

There are red eyes blazing at me from that pale, beautiful (how unfairly beautiful!) face.

"No," he says, softly, and this hurts me so much I dive back into the darkness of unconsciousness.

He didn't want her for his bed, he explained to her in a cool, detached voice. He needed a sparring partner - someone who would fight him full-out, without fear or hesitation, as most of the Sound regarded him with. Her hatred of him, he explained gravely, would give her ample motivation. Most of the ninja who could offer him even a bit of a challenge were always out on missions, or being killed. (Sound had a frighteningly high mortality rate, higher than Konoha's by as much as Konoha's was higher than civilian cities' - but then Orochimaru always had a ready source of new manpower in missing-nin)

"I'm not - I can't give you a good fight," Tenten protested quietly, eying him with wariness and a careful tension as she lay in her bed, healing - not that she could have done anything if he made a move.

"Not yet you can't." He paused. "But you will." This last is a threat, or a promise - or maybe both.

Training is hard.

There's an edge to it that I've never known, not even with Gai and Lee's most fervent bouts of training, not even when Neji is in an angry mood.

THIS is an enemy.

He pushes me, pushes me, pushes me. I can never forget that. He pushes me past endurance - not just the gasping, tired, wow-good-bout training with my teammates, but leaving me broken and bleeding on the hard-packed earth floor. (No dojos for us - the outside serves just fine)

Not only blood. Burns, too, from lightning strikes and fire balls - poison from summoned snakes - suffocation from vipers, from pale hands folded around my throat.

I learn, though. I learn how to move faster, better, smarter. How to use my blades to deflect his. How to dodge the whip-swift strikes of his summoned snakes. I learn -from him - that I'm a wind-natured; later on, as I learn to manipulate that, I learn that I am secondarily a lightning user.

Just like him.

Broken, gasping, bleeding - not just from cuts, but from her mouth and ears and nose. The Sound medic-nin rushed to her side, gasping in horror when they realized she was still awake.

"Stupid girl," Sasuke told her as they worked on her. "I said not to try that jutsu unless I was here."

She smiled back at him, revealing bloody teeth. "But how - how would I surprise you in a spar? If you knew..."

Then one of the doctors pressed a hand against her in such a way that she fell unconscious again. The last thing she saw were his red eyes, spinning, spinning, spinning.

At one point I realized I was fast enough, strong enough - GOOD ENOUGH - to attempt an escape. Perhaps when Sasuke slept. Or when he went out on a mission. (He did not go out on many - Orochimaru wanted him safe. And training.)

I did not.

I told myself I was biding my time, only. Waiting. Hedging my bets, training more, learning this skill or that.

I knew I was lying.

Stockholm Syndrome

While modern sources are uncertain of the etymology of the name, this designation has been with us for a long time, possibly even before the Great Cataclysm hundreds of years ago.

Stockholm Syndrome describes the behavior of kidnap victims who, over time, become sympathetic to their captors. Captives begin to identify with their captors initially as a defensive mechanism, out of fear of violence. Small acts of kindness by the captor are magnified, since finding perspective in a hostage situation is by definition impossible. It's important to note that these symptoms occur under tremendous emotional and often physical duress.

It was hard to keep track of time. Days passed into each other swiftly. Sometimes I missed entire weeks, injured. Sometimes I napped in the middle of the day, woke up in the middle of the night, fought, sparred, had my clock reset to the passage of days only when forced to by medics keeping me on a schedule. I ate when I wanted - could not often spare the time - burned off everything I ate.

It had been a year, I was told later. I didn't know.

I did not escape.

He told me to go.

I - I almost argued with him. I told him he needed me there. I told him - I told him lots of things. And he didn't say I was wrong - but he said I needed to go.

So I went.

Later, when the flurry and chaos of her return ended; when she'd told everything she knew about Sound to the elders - was questioned by Ibiki, proved she had not broken under Sound's interrogation - reunited with her team, friends - when all that was over, she had to buy new clothes. She had grown in the year she'd gone - grown leaner, taller, limbs changing in proportion to her own body.

Her new shirts were red - bright red, and black. Sleeveless, no longer silk.

She would wear her weapons openly, now. She would not hide them underneath the flimsy cloth of a sleeve.

And red and black hid the blood so much better.