Note: As always, thank you to everybody who reviewed. :)
Tenten loves life with the breathtaking intensity that only a shinobi used to walking in the face of danger can. There are some days when, above all, despite everything else, she just feels a complete, sheer joy to be alive.
The sun shines down, soaking her through with its golden, warm heat. It reflects against the metal of her weapons, glinting white-hot daggers of their own; filters through the leafy canopy of her clearing, dappling the ground she stands on with flecks of sunlight. The breeze teases the leaves of the trees as they rustle softly.
"Tenten?" Neji asks, pausing for a moment in the execution of his Eight Trigrams. "Are you all right?"
Tenten looks up at him; at the way the light turns the dark brown of his hair into a warm shade of chocolate, and smiles. "Never better."
Team Gai has a dirty little secret: They aren't always as mission-conscious as they would like people to believe.
That would explain why Gai is guarding the lord as he sleeps, leaving Neji, Tenten, and Lee to have a precious few hours to themselves – to unwind, he explains, after a very vexing mission.
Tenten has been on her share of missions that are bloody, torturous, painful, extremely dangerous, or of extreme importance to her village.
This, however, is not one of them.
Lee has bounded into the ocean at the first possible opportunity, after a straight mile's sprint down the beach. He throws himself into the water with a joyful yell loud enough to wake the dead – or at least, that's how it seems, in the still, moonlit night in the Land of Waves. He is now demonstrating to Tenten that it is, indeed, possible to bodysurf.
Neji turns up his nose at the idea of bodysurfing, preferring instead to use his Byakugan to comb the seashore for the prettiest seashells.
Tenten's pants are rolled up to above the knee as she stands on the shore. The breeze is gentle but persistent, bringing with it the smells of the sea. From what she can see, aside from the shirtless and happily surfing Lee, it is completely black, tinged with specks of starlit silver. The reflection of the full moon ripples on the water not too far from her.
"You look like you want to catch it." Lee tumbles in on the surf, washed in by a wave. He sounds breathless and he has seaweed in his hair, but his smile is still bright enough to be almost blinding.
Tenten can't help but smile. "Which isn't really too far from the truth." She is standing at the very edge of the shore, where the breaking waves only cascade a light sheen of water over her bare feet as they sink into the sand. So, feeling only slightly foolish, she takes first one step into the slightly chill water, then another, and another, until she notices, with a pleasant shivery feeling, that she is standing in the very center of the moon. She is knee-deep in the ocean, and she actually sees the reflected silver light ripple against her calves and feet, and, when she looks down into the water, she sees the reflection of her face, wide-eyed and pale, gilded in the finest coat of silver.
Neji can't help but smile, as he returns from his seashell venture. "I'm sure you feel very accomplished, Tenten."
Lee cheers, from his spot sprawled on the sand. Tenten turns around and waves to her land-bound companions again, and he grins. "That's our Tenten – always reaching for the stars."
Tenten would rather die than admit to Genma (probably because he'd ruffle her hair and say that she is unbearably cute), but through the entirety of her official ANBU induction, her spine tingles and the hair on the back of her neck stands up. There are so many emotions coursing inside her, through her veins as if they have infused her blood itself, that she cannot even put a name to all of them.
The pride. Honor. The knowledge that she has truly achieved her lifelong dream – to be an exceptional kunoichi, one of the best. The knowledge that all of it, the countless hours training, sweating, fighting, bleeding, have finally paid off.
Tenten has never felt better.
It is an old Hidden Mist custom, from the land of Sayaka's ancestors. Deep down, the former Mist kunoichi knows that not too much stock should be held in these ancient rituals, but that doesn't stop her from setting the table on the night of her Tenten's first birthday. Part of her wishes, with a pang, that she could use her family's traditional materials for this, but as they had made clear to her, she has no place with them anymore.
Sayaka purchases the necessary objects at a street market in Konoha, with the exception of the kunai.
She sets Tenten down in front of the table, supporting her on her feet gently. The baby gazes at the unfamiliar things, their bright, interesting colors reflected in her curious brown eyes.
It doesn't take long for Tenten to stretch her pudgy little arm toward what she wants, insistently straining forward, against her mother's grasp. Sayaka holds her little girl, and swallows, trying to ignore the sudden constriction of her throat.
"It's all right," she tells her daughter softly. "I know. You don't have to push yourself yet."
Tenten's eyes are fixated on the kunai, the pen and the yen piece forgotten. The bright silver and precise fascinates some corner of her baby mind, and Sayaka relents, loosening her hold ever so slightly.
She watches as her daughter's tiny fingers clasp around the firm leather handle of the kunai, her eyes solemnly traversing the length of the blade.
Sayaka lets Tenten observe the kunai until the baby yawns, releases her hold on the leather hilt reluctantly, and returns of her own accord, snuggling up to her mother's neck.
She strokes the downy cap of sepia-colored hair, and presses a kiss to her cheek. "I'm sure we are going to see great things from you, little Tenten."
(She has no idea how right she is.)
(Unsurprisingly, Tenten always believed in people choosing their own destiny.)
Well, there you go. The complete fifty themes on our favorite weapons mistress, Tenten. :D This started out as just an experiment, but as it wore on, I found myself getting really attached to Tenten, because she's just that awesome and lovable, haha.
Thank you so much to everybody who's left feedback for this fic. It's great to hear you guys' comments.