Belated birthday fic for my favorite kunoichi, Tenten! (Yes, I realize that it's very belated at this point). :D

Disclaimer: All characters and such belong to Kishi.

Rated for mature themes, lime, and... battery-operated horror.

Yeah, so... enjoy? (grins)


With Your Body


I like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.

- e.e. cummings


IT had been five months and seventeen days.

Nearly half a year of being out in the middle of Suna--without her. Not that he was dependent upon her to the point of needing her by his side every waking moment. But, he was used to training with her, used to fighting by her side, and used to pressing her small body to his in rapture--whenever their enemies were laid to waste.

That had all changed, however, when they'd become jounin. She went on to join the ANBU, as part of her life-long dream, and later became a squad captain. He, on the other hand, followed the career path of their sensei, and devoted most of his energies to training his genin cell.

It was a decent enough arrangement--during peacetime--when all one had to worry about was the unruly Haruno-Uzumaki boy ditching class.

But, social climate follows a cyclical pattern; and peace can only last for so long before tension builds again, and erupts into war.

Now, training his cell was secondary to taking as many A and S-rank missions as possible. But, that was nothing compared to what she was going through. Oh, how many times had she left their bed in the middle of the night to conduct a raid or gather intelligence?

But, this current mission had been going on for nearly half a year. And neither of them had ever been gone for that long. Still, he carried the hope, tight in his chest, that perhaps her squad was in Suna as well--lurking in the bushes or dancing, just out reach, in the distant horizon.

"She's not here, Lee," said the ever-stoic Hyuuga Neji, following his teammate's gaze. "She knew we were surveying this area and would have met up with us, if she had the chance. Besides, I haven't seen anyone from ANBU all month."

Lee sighed. "I know, but she could have been sent on any number of missions while we've been out here. And it kills me. Not knowing where she is. Not being able to... protect her."

Neji put a consoling hand on his teammate's shoulder. A gesture he would probably have never wasted on anyone else.

"Remember, Lee," he said. "Your wife is an ANBU captain. She can take care of herself. And, if she'd heard what you just said, she would have flown into quite a rage of feministic indignation. So, be glad she's not here."

Lee smiled sheepishly. "You're probably right. You won't tell her, Neji-kun... will you?"

"Wouldn't dream of it," the Hyuuga smirked--in a way that Lee didn't feel entirely comfortable with.

But, at least ninety percent of Neji's smirks were only taunts; anyone who knew the Hyuuga prodigy would agree that his aura of quiet smugness had remained intact over the twenty-year span of Team Gai. Or, less politely (but a tad more truthfully), he was a cocky bastard.

The two sat in silence for a while as they continued their surveillance on what was presumably an Akatsuki base in Suna. Every now and then, there came an explosion from the distance--followed by a loud string of expletives.

Neji gave a contemptuous snort. "Discreet, aren't they?"

"But, this is still just surveillance," said Lee. "There's nothing we can do but sit tight and wait for our relief to arrive."

Neji stared at him.


"'Sit tight and wait for relief?' That's not the Lee I used to know."

The taijutsu master shrugged. "Being impulsive gets you killed these days. No need to die stupidly."

"Well, I'm glad you're finally listening to someone with common sense," said Neji. "Mainly because she'll gut me with the raw end of a kunai if I don't bring your sorry ass back home."

"Me too," said Lee with a distracted smile. Distracted by the mention of her. "Hey, Neji-kun, it was nice being a team, wasn't it? The three of us?"

"It was nice when we were kids," the Hyuuga clarified. "But I'm glad they don't let married couples go out on missions together anymore. You know, that incident."

Lee turned crimson. "You'll never let me live that down, will you? It was just that one time!"

"The one time I caught you," Neji corrected, lips curled in another smirk. "And it was rather hard not to."

With no comeback, the taijutsu master resorted to pouting.

Fortunately for him, Neji didn't press the issue; he had his Byakugan activated and was gazing at something behind them.

Lee pulled out a kunai, but Neji made a stifling gesture with his arm.

"Calm down. It's just Shino and Hinata-sama. Our relief."


"It's okay for engaged couples to go on missions together," said Neji in response to his teammate's puzzled look. "Besides, the Godaime-sama knows that my cousin has a good deal more self-control than you."

To this, Lee could only cross his arms and pout again. Really, Neji hadn't said anything about his wife's self-control (which was inarguably weaker than his) though they hadn't technically been married during the incident in question.

"When you're done sulking, Lee, we can go," said Neji, jerking his thumb in the direction of the clearing. "After eight hours of this, I could damn well use a hot meal and a clean bed."

Lee, however, was staring into the horizon again.

"...What? Oh... you go, Neji-kun. I'll catch up with you in minute."

Neji raised a thin eyebrow in what might have been concern, but didn't argue. He gave his teammate a brief nod, and left.

Left Lee alone to stare into the ever-darkening horizon, and brood over kunai, and senbon, and... her. He had been without her for nearly six months, but somehow, it seemed longer than that. Much longer. And, it wasn't as if he couldn't survive without her.

It was the not knowing; not knowing whether she was safe in Konoha, or all alone in some nameless village, in grave peril perhaps, and needing him. The thought of her needing him--and being so far away--made his chest constrict tightly, and his breathing harsh and labored.

But, he needed her, too--just as much now as he did then.


They lay in his bed, tangled up in each other's limbs, and her long, unbound hair.

These moments, when they could just have each other, were becoming increasingly rare, so they snatched them greedily whenever possible. Just as rare, unfortunately, were the times when they could just talk. About anything at all, or nothing in particular.

So, he would seize those quiet moments--when she was completely and deliciously spent, drifting in the tenuous haze between sleep and wakefulness.



"There's something... I've wanted to talk to you about for a while."

The pillow next to him groaned. "Now??"

"I'm leaving tomorrow morning at four."

"Okay," she relented, tracing lazy circles on his back. "Shoot."

Lee took a deep breath. "What do you think, Tenten, about... marriage."

"...Well... I couldn't really say," she grinned, "because I've never been married before."

"You know what I mean."

"What the hell kind of answer do you expect, Lee? I can't even remember my own name right now--let alone follow any serious conversation."

"Well, you seem to remember mine," he pointed out, just to be annoying.

"How could I not," she smirked, "when I've been screaming it at the top of my lungs for the past hour?"

In spite of himself, Lee laughed.

"Fine, Tenten. What about the idea of marriage?"

"...I'm... not sure," she said slowly. "I mean, it's not the commitment. I love you. I love being with you. But... well, I don't want to fall prey to that mass conspiracy you guys seem to have against married women."

Lee cocked an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

"As soon as a girl gets married," she said, "her husband takes her birth control pills... and switches them with tic tacs."

"... What?"

Tenten grinned. "Come on, Lee. How else have all of my married friends gotten knocked up within months of their honeymoons? That's just... not for me, you know? That stay-at-home-mom thing. I've just... never had that.. urge. You know what I'm talking about, right?"

Lee stared at her. Not being a woman, he couldn't exactly relate to the "motherly urge" that they were all supposed to have.

But, he knew that pregnancy was essentially the kiss of death to her ANBU career. To really any nin-related career. Well, except maybe a boring desk job processing mission reports. And suddenly it all made sense. She wanted him--but she also wanted to realize her childhood dream--to go on living as they were now, and reach her fullest potential unencumbered by anything.

Just like he did.

And, with that fresh understanding--that had the same goals; the same wants, after all--he leaned over and kissed her cheek.

"Who needs kids anyway? They'd only slow us down. If you marry me, Tenten," he said, almost jokingly, "I promise I won't tamper with your pills."

The nice-guy pose he gave, for emphasis, lit up his tiny bedroom--and the expression on her face. Her amber eyes went suddenly wide.

"Yes," she said, in a whisper.

Lee blinked. He must have misheard or something, because he hadn't even proposed! Of course, if he'd known that she really had been receptive to the idea of marriage, he would have done it long before now. But he would have at least bought her a ring first!

He certainly hadn't intended to make a proposal on-the-spot, having made none of the necessary preparations. And he certainly hadn't expected to hear what he thought he'd heard.

No, it couldn't be true. But, he had to make sure.

"What did you say... Tenten?" he asked tentatively, nervously... not daring to believe that she'd really said...


Her voice trembled slightly that time and, were those tears on her cheeks?

"Yes, Lee. I'll marry you..."

And, for him at least, the world stopped.

And neither of them got any sleep that night...

They married in the springtime of that next year, a few months after her 27th birthday.


"Tenten," Lee whispered, smiling at the memory, and the lovely way her name seemed to roll off his tongue.

"Lee-kun?" said a soft voice somewhere behind him.

He gasped and spun around, kunai ready--and there were Shino and Hinata. He relaxed.

"Oh, sorry for startling you," said Hinata, her cheeks slightly pink.

Despite her jounin status, and her position as the Hyuuga clan head, she continued to struggle with her nervousness--with her perceived weakness. But Lee admired her firm resolve and persistent effort.

"Please don't apologize, Hinata-san. I should've been paying attention."

Shino surveyed the taijutsu master through his dark glasses.

"It can be difficult to focus when your mind is elsewhere," he said solemnly. "But our mission would be a waste if your carelessness led to its downfall. You owe it to yourself, and to her, to be more vigilant."

"Shino-kun!" said Hinata reprovingly. "That was uncalled for. Lee-kun always takes his missions seriously. Neji-niisan has great faith in him."

Shino pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and scowled at his fiancee. It was hard to tell, of course, since his mouth couldn't be seen--but his perpetual brow furrow was more pronounced than usual.

"I never spoke against his abilities as a shinobi, Hinata. I'm simply stressing the importance of constant vigilance. Something I emphasize repeatedly to our foolhardy teammate."

Hinata sighed. "It always goes back to Kiba-kun, doesn't it? Oh, I wish you two would get along better."

And Lee couldn't help but smile as the two bickered softly--in the subdued way unique to them alone. It reminded him of his genin years: the constant clash between his reckless enthusiasm and Neji's calm clarity. And then there was sensible, matter-of-fact Tenten--who yelled at them both when their fights got out of hand.

She'd complained frequently about their ridiculous rivalry (which Neji still didn't acknowledge), but the Hyuuga told her that she should be happy with their arrangement--that she was the only reason why he hadn't killed Lee already.

Lee's indignant scowl had been mirrored on her face as Neji smirked at them both. The cocky bastard.

And Lee would have given anything, just then, to see his wife scowl again--and tell him how ridiculous he was for missing her so much.

"Lee-kun?" came Hinata's soft voice, bringing him forcibly out of his musings.

The taijutsu master flushed at being caught daydreaming again, and Shino didn't look pleased. But, then again, he never did.

Lee cleared his throat. "So, um, did Neji-kun give you our status report?"

"Yes," she said, "and he's waiting for you back there."


Lee sort of jerked up and prepared to run off no-weights style. But, then he stopped, mid-sprint, and turned back to Team Eight.

"Be careful, you guys. There were a few instances during our surveillance when our targets seemed to... catch on. But, no. They would have attacked immediately if they'd noticed us. But, still... be careful, okay?"

Hinata nodded.

"I recommend the same," said Shino, and Lee couldn't help but notice that the Aburame's fingers were laced with his fiancee's. He found it mildly surprising that the hands-off bug-nin could be capable of such affection.

But, Lee took that moment to flee--for two reasons. One, Shino frightened him like no one else; and two, the Hyuuga prodigy could be equally frightening when kept waiting. So, it was really a lose-lose situation from every angle.

Though Neji now believed in personal control (to some degree), he still professed that fate worked in strange ways--and some twisted fate (or something) was apparently at work today. He and Lee returned to their base, ate hot meals, and slept in clean beds.

But, Shino and Hinata didn't.

A pair of glasses, a ring, and a bloody mess were discovered near the Akatsuki base the next day.

What Lee found most frightening, however, was his teammate's reaction. Or lack thereof.

The S-class criminals had fled the scene by the time the search party arrived--and Neji just stood there--frozen--pale eyes moving slowly from the torn bits of clothing--to mangled, disjointed limbs--to a tiny ring. His cousin's engagement ring.

Lee even remembered when Hinata had announced it.

During a Team Gai picnic, while the three of them laughed over twenty years of misadventures, she had just run up, eyes full of tears, and gasped that she was marrying the love of her life. Before Neji could even question, she beamed at him radiantly, kissed his cheek, and hurried off again.

The expression on the prodigy's face was one Lee had never seen before. An almost watery smile graced his lips--and he looked perilously close to tears himself.

And Hinata's subsequent engagement party was the wildest they'd ever been to. She out-drank them all, spent half the night singing drunken karaoke... and now she was dead.

Just like that.

And now Lee stood outside his own doorway, wondering how the hell he had gotten there--not remembering anything in between.

As the Akatsuki were nowhere to be found (the base was picked clean), the mission was aborted, and everyone was sent home. Along with the remnants of the former Hyuuga head and her not-quite husband.

But, Neji had remained in a haze during the journey. Not a flicker of emotion crossed his face, except for something bewildered that seemed to linger in his eyes.

Between his own tears, Lee tried to get his comrade to say something--anything--but he may as well have been pleading with a vegetable. Only when they reached the village borders (and Lee insisted that Neji come home with him), did the Hyuuga speak again.

"Go home to your wife, Lee," he'd said, voice trembling slightly. "And I'll go home to mine."

And then he left. Just sort of wandered away in a daze, as if he had only a vague idea where he was going; as if didn't belong to the village at all.

And Lee stood there and watched, ignoring every fervent desire to do just the opposite.

They may well have been a team (they never stopped calling themselves one), but Neji still had a family to return to. They were his main priority now.

That was how Lee found himself on his own doorstep, fumbling dazedly for the keys, and unable to find the one that would actually open his front door.

This entire tragedy, he suddenly realized, was his fault. Despite his suspicions that the Akatsuki might have caught on to their operation, he had still left Shino and Hinata there. Alone.

Perhaps if he'd stayed a little longer... shared his suspicions with Neji. But, surely, the Byakugan user had noticed it too?

It was all just too confusing. Too much for his weary, sleep-deprived brain to process. And, like Neji, he just didn't want to process it. He wanted to go to his own bedroom and sleep for days and days and days. But, more than that, he wanted... wanted...


And suddenly, every worried thought, every fitful need, and every pang of heartache he had experienced over half a year assaulted him at the same time. It was enough to make his chest tighten with something beyond longing. It was worst combination of physical and emotional pain.

But, where was she?

Normally, when one of them came back from a long mission (that is, anything over a week) they were immediately glomped by the other person. What, with a six-month absence, Tenten should have been mauling him.

But, she wasn't in the living room, the kitchen, or their target range out back. Frowning, Lee took off his vest and dropped it on a chair.

Was she on a mission, then?

When he'd gone to Sakura to get his latest wounds cleaned, he was sure she'd said that Tenten was in the village. That she'd returned from a mission only a few days ago.

Before the taijutsu master could jump to any more crazy conclusions, however, he noticed a sort of whirring in the background. Shinobi senses perked, he followed the noise through the house and wound up outside the bathroom. The door was slightly ajar and a faint mist wafted out.

So, the shower was running... meaning that... that...

Well, Lee's actual train of thought went something like this:

missing wife + shower running !!!

Though his first impulse was to barrel in and seize her, the other part of him--the part that liked to attach "-san" or "-kun" to everyone's names--hung back.

'No,' he told himself. 'Married or not, I can't just barge in on her. I must not!'

But, he couldn't walk away entirely. He had spent months worrying incessantly over her being in danger and needing him. Now, though, it wasn't about her needing him.

It was about him needing her.

The weapons mistress, oblivious to it all, hummed as she soaped herself down. And Lee felt suddenly jealous of the water sliding over her curves, touching her where he wanted to touch her. Tenten turned to reach for a bottle of shampoo, and Lee caught sight of her shapely back; her spine noticeably more pronounced than usual.

He frowned. War was clearly taking its toll, but it was nothing that the curry of life couldn't fix. Well... several helpings of it.

He let his gaze linger lower still, resting on the long, dark scar that ran the entire width of her lower back. The hint of a smile tugged at his lips as he recalled the first time he'd seen that mark... the first time they'd made love.


"Jeez..." said Tenten, naked and blushing.

Lee had found that strange, because he'd never seen her blush before. Never thought of her as the kind of girl capable of blushing.

But, she didn't remain blushingly shy for long.

"Damn, Lee," she said irritably. "If you're going to gawk at me like that, at least give me something interesting to look at."


She smirked and pushed his vest off, before tugging at the zipper of his spandex. She worked it open and reached for the knot of his hitai-ate, undoing it slowly, tauntingly--already undressing him with her eyes.

Lee smirked back and seized her mouth, running one hand through her unbound hair, and trailing the other down the gentle curve of her spine. But, he paused as he felt something hard. Something... scaly.

He broke the kiss. "Tenten, what's--?"

She pulled abruptly away. "It's nothing."

Nothing? But...?

"It's nothing!" she repeated, her voice rising. "Is this about having sex, or interrogating me over scars I've had for nearly a decade?"

"...It's a... scar?" he asked.

Tenten rolled her eyes. "No, Lee. I'm a fucking alien."

He stared at her, surprised to see that she was redder than before. And her gaze was fixed on his right foot.

"Tenten," he said, reaching out to touch her cheek. "Can I... see it?"

She blinked at him, then shrugged. "You've seen everything else. It's no big deal.."

But he felt her entire body tense as his fingers traced the scar again. And he couldn't understand. How could she possibly be more uncomfortable showing him a bit of raised epithelial tissue... than her other womanly parts.

"Okay, okay," she said, pushing his hand away. "No need to perseverate on it."

"When did you get this?" he asked. "How did you get this?"

Tenten sighed. "Lee... this conversation is the exact opposite of arousing. If you really want to get laid, I suggest you move on to other things."


His fingers reached out again, almost of their own accord, and stroked the bit of raised flesh. He was shocked to find that it literally ran from one end of her back to the other.

What the hell...?

"Fine," she groaned. "It was at our first chuunin prelims, okay? You know. When I landed on that... fan."

And a thousand memories came surging back.

Of catching her.

Shouting at Temari in a blind fury.

Limping by her hospital room with the physical therapist.

Overhearing the occupational therapist say that she shouldn't be walking. That someone with bits of crushed vertebrae protruding into their spinal cord should be paralyzed from the injury site down.

Lee stared at her. "So... this is from...? Oh, Tenten..."

"... It's no big deal," she said, turning redder. "It happened a while ago. You're injuries were worse, remember? You almost had to quit being a ninja."

But... he didn't have a that sort of permanent reminder. And Tenten seemed embarrassed.

No, ashamed.

She ran a hand through her hair distractedly. "I was hoping you wouldn't notice it."

Wouldn't notice? How could anyone possibly not notice... that?

"It's nothing to be ashamed of, Tenten," he said awkwardly.

She scoffed. "What are you, a shrink now? Should I put my clothes back on and lay on the couch?"

"No, I just don't understand your issue with it. You earned it in battle. That's something to be proud of."

"It wasn't a 'battle'," she countered. "It didn't last long enough to be considered a proper match. That scar is just... it's a reminder of my defeat. And a pathetic one, at that."

Lee looked at her for a long moment.

"No defeat's pathetic, Tenten," he said, moving behind her. "And no battle scar is ugly."

"Lee, what are you--? Ohhh..."

He had bent down, and pressed his mouth to the scarred skin on her lower back.

Tenten gasped, and dug her fingers into his hair.

It was the first kiss she'd received anywhere below the neck.


Suddenly, the water shut off, and out stepped the very woman he'd been fantasizing over. Rivulets of water slid tauntingly down her curves and formed a puddle at her feet.

Lee felt his breath hitch in his throat.

"You can come in, you know, Lee," Tenten smirked, hands resting on her bare hips. "Unless you'd rather stand there and gawk."

He blinked. "How did you--?"

"You were never good at being discreet."

Against his will, he found himself blushing--despite that they'd been married for five years, and lovers for ten. She was the naked one, but her gaze made him feel naked.

"... Damn," she said, suddenly serious. "Half a year..."

"... Tenten..."

And Lee strode over and seized her, as he'd ached to from the moment he reentered the village.

No, from the moment he'd left it.

He slid one hand down her back as he kissed her, plunging the other into her dark hair. He relished her familiar smell--a strange mixture of flowers and steel--and her taste. Tenten's hands were at his waist, working almost feverishly at the knot of his hitai-ate, letting it hit the floor with a clatter.

And, not even thinking about what he was doing, Lee pinned her against the wall; kissing her mouth, her neck, and lower--sliding a knee between her legs.

"Fuck," she hissed, and her was voice thick; choked.

The moisture on her face suddenly tasted salty, and her name escaped his lips in a moan as she arched forward to bite his neck.

Tenten dug her nails into his shoulder and worked open his spandex with the other hand, tearing the unwanted garment away with ease, despite the tangle of mouths and limbs.

But, before they could get any further...

"Ahh, Lee, stop!"

"What's wr--?"

"Soap!" she cried. "In my EYE!"

Sure enough, a trail of not-quite-washed-out shampoo ran down the entire left side of her face. Lee ran for a damp cloth and dabbed her eye, before smoothing the rest of her hair out of her face.

She smiled and stroked his cheek in gratitude.

He grinned sheepishly "I should probably let you finish in there, huh?"

Tenten's smile became a smirk. "I've got a better idea."

She turned the shower back on and dragged him inside--not even bothering to wait for the water to heat up.


Hours later, she lay contentedly curled up against him, but Lee had a much harder time settling. With his physical needs satisfied, there was nothing to distract him from the fact that... two of their comrades were dead.

He absently stroked his wife's hair, wondering how in all hell he could possibly explain what happened.

But, Tenten didn't let him brood for long.

"Hey, Lee."


"What's up?"

He stared at her, suddenly paranoid. Had she just read his mind? Over their years as teammates and afterward, Tenten developed something weird and uncanny, akin to mind reading--except that it only worked on him--and Neji, to some degree. Neither of them could hide anything from her.

But, Lee plastered a big, fake smile on his face and tried anyway. "Nothing."

"Uh huh."


"You only get all quiet like this when something's really bothering you," she said, eyes narrowing suspiciously. "Lee, did you have an affair?"

"What? Of course not!"

Her warm, amber eyes scrutinized him for a moment, then slid shut as her body relaxed against him again.

"Okay," she said. "Then, what's wrong? Did something happen during your mission?"

This, Lee didn't feel as comfortable admitting. He knew, of course, that he'd have to break the news sooner or later--probably within the next day or two. But, Tenten looked so happy and content; like she'd been before the war. He didn't want to ruin that for her.

At least, not yet.

Suddenly, she shot up, her eyes wild. "Neji! Did something happen to Neji? You would've told me immediately wouldn't you? Is he okay?"

"Neji-kun's fine," he said quickly--conveniently leaving out how unsteady their teammate's gait had been as he'd made his way home; and how his eyes seemed to gaze forever into oblivion. "I brought him back. As always."

"You mean he brought you back," she corrected. "I've been on enough missions with both of you to know how it really goes."

"I've saved him before!" he exclaimed, indignant.


And, in spite of himself, Lee smirked.

She wanted to be like that? Fine.

He waited about ten minutes, until she looked drowsy to the point of no return, then he launched an all-out attack--on her tickle spot, that is.

"Lee! What the hell are you doing?!" she shrieked, squirming against his assault. "I'm sleeping here!"

He grinned wickedly. "You shouldn't have let your guard down, Tenten."

And in the scuffle that followed, Lee landed on something hard; something that buzzed angrily at him!

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!" he cried, clinging to her. "Something's attacking me!"

Tenten rolled her eyes. "Baby. It has on off switch, you know." And she took the thing from her husband and shut it off.

Upon closer inspection, Lee observed that it was long, green, and... battery-operated??

"...Tenten?? What's...??"

And, even in the dim light, he could see that her face was crimson.

"Why, it's the... 'Green Beast!'"


"Birthday present from Ino," she said, looking perilously close to laughter. "She said these things... 'keep good girls faithful to their husbands'..."

Lee snorted, unsure which scenario was funnier: Tenten owning a big, green vibrator--or Tenten naming said vibrator after him.

"Why do I suddenly feel objectified?" he remarked, noting the unfavorable, uh, size difference between "The Beast" and himself.

At this, his wife laughed outright. "Don't worry, baby. It can't compare to the original."

"Well, that's a relief," he sighed, having envisioned a long and drawn-out competition with his new "rival in love." "So, you said Ino got you this for your... oh! Your birthday! Oh no!!" He sat bolt upright.

"Lee, relax," she said, pulling him back down. "It's too late to get all worked up."

"But, Tenten! I must immediately buy you a birthday present to atone for my thoughtless oversight!"

"My birthday was last week," she reminded him. "And it's not your fault you missed it."


"You don't get it, do you? I already got what I wanted. What I've been wanting for the past six months, actually."


"You, Lee. You're my birthday present. Which means, of course, that I can do whatever I want with you," she smirked. "But, not now because I'm exhausted."

He smirked back. "You lack discipline, Tenten."

Which earned him a solid smack on the stomach.

But, Lee found himself luxuriating in their familiar dynamics, which had remained largely unchanged over the past twenty years. As he studied her and their room--with her clothes and various pointy objects strewn about pretty much indiscriminately--he found himself wondering if it would all still be there in another twenty years.

The lifespan of a ninja was notoriously short; and the formation of any emotional attachment was dangerous. A spouse could be taken by an enemy shinobi, or die in battle. And Lee found himself wondering, morbidly, whether Shino and Hinata had died at the same time--or if one had been forced to watch the death of the other. It was enough to bring him precariously close to tears again, especially as he speculated on what it might be like to see her die.

Then again, he saw it often enough in his nightmares.

"So, thirty-two!" he exclaimed with forced cheer, just to avoid the spiraling further down that morbid train of thought. "Do you feel any different?"

"Not really," she said. "Though I'm becoming progressively less youthful with each passing year."

"No, you're not," he insisted. "You will always be at the cusp of your youth, Tenten!"

"Pfft. See these lines on my face? I blame all of them on you."


"The lines around my eyes," she said, "are from all these years worrying about you, or being pissed at you. And the lines around my mouth... are from smiling too much."

"... Smiling too much?"

"Yeah. If I'd married Neji or someone like that, my face could have been young and line-free for the rest of my days!"

At that, they both laughed outright--though he felt a sharp pang in his chest at the mention of their teammate. Laughing at Neji's expense seemed wrong, and Lee fell silent again.

"Fine," said Tenten, not noticing. "I may not be able to blame my lines on you, but it's definitely your fault that I'm all pruney!"

"Excuse me?" he countered. "Who dragged whom into the shower?"

"What? You came willingly enough."

Lee chuckled. "You know, Tenten, you're too much for me."

And he felt her smirk against his chest. "Damn straight. I'm amazed it took you this long to figure that out."

Her breathing evened out as his laughter subsided, and he suspected that she'd finally fallen asleep. But, he felt her calloused hand tracing lazy circles on his back.

The dimly-lit lamp filled their room with shadows--yet nowhere were they more pronounced than under her eyes.

Lee knew that his wife prided herself on her ability to cope with stress--to never buckle under pressure, but the strain of several months' worry was obvious--in the lines around her eyes, the dark circles under them, and her more-prominent-than-usual ribs.

"I'll miss this," she said absently, touching his face. "And I'll miss you."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm leaving for Suna in a few days."

"...What? Now?"

"It can't be helped, Lee," she sighed. "But, fuck.. I'm sick of this. I'm sick of missing you."

"...Me too," he said, and left it at that.

There was no point in guilt tripping her, or making the time they had left miserable.

He decided to put off mentioning their fallen comrades for as long as possible. It might be more selfish than protective, but he couldn't bear seeing her more heartbroken than she was already. That image, of Shino and Hinata's remains, and her engagement ring, would haunt him for the rest of his life.

And, unbidden, an image of his wife, in Hinata's place, surfaced to the forefront of his mind.

"Tenten," he whispered fiercely, willing the picture away. "Promise me... that you'll come back to me."

She snorted. "Don't be stupid, Lee. I always do."

But, he slid an arm around her back anyway, and tucked her protectively under his chin.

"And I always will," he felt her whisper, pressing a kiss to his collarbone.

And that was good enough for him; because there were no guarantees in their line of work. She could very well die on her next mission, or the whole damn village could be blown up by some crazy, bomb-happy Akatsuki.

But, for now Lee was content. Content just to have her and trust that her accuracy would never fail; that she always would come back to him. Because, really, what else could he do?

He felt her body relax and her breathing slowed to a crawl, indicating that she really was asleep. He traced the edge of her scar with a gentle fingertip.

"Then, I always will too," he murmured into her hair; before falling asleep to the quiet rhythm of her breathing.

With the only body he'd ever loved.


and possibly I like the thrill
of under me you so quite new.

- e.e. cummings




A/N: Yeah, I didn't intend to make it this long, but it sort of took off on its own. These things get out of hand sometimes, you know? xD But, I had fun with it--maybe too much. (grins) Anyway, hope you enjoyed. Drop me a review?