qui audet vincit

blah : speech in Yong
Sasuke's life with Orochimaru was a dark, grim thing, where concepts like 'safety' and 'trust' were ethereal as the thought of glittery-winged fairie unicorns. As could be expected, his sources of happy feelings were thus far and few between, and even rarer were things that could cause his expression to change from 'sulky' or 'glaring' to 'neutral' or perhaps even 'smirky'.

This was why he was a little uncertain on how to react when, grinning so widely that her teeth were a visible streak of white in the darkness, Tenten suddenly dropped out of the branches above him. On the one hand, the primary reason for this little nighttime jaunt – to see Tenten, whose now-customary ANBU team (Sound intelligence had them pegged as one of the most effective Konoha units, so effective that the powers-that-be weren't willing to split them up) was supposed to be passing by this sector – had been accomplished. On the other, she had removed – indeed, appropriated for herself – the gleeful opportunity of surprising her, one of the few pleasures left in his life.

It wasn't like she was being very gracious about it, either.

"Made you jump!" she crowed.

"Did not," Sasuke retorted, sulkily. To express his feelings he dove down through the foliage to the forest-floor, snagging a tree-branch and performing several quick rotations to kill his momentum before landing. However, as Tenten – still grinning, he noted sourly – duplicated his feat and landed with an entirely unnecessary handspring, it did not make him feel any better.

"Did so," she said, in a deliberately childish voice, then asked, "Well, aren't you going to ask me how I found you?"

Sasuke had been wondering exactly that, but he'd be damned if he'd ask her. He stuck his hands in his pockets and kept obstinately silent, turning pointedly away from her.

Regardless, Tenten leapt in front of him and captured his eyes with her own, sticking her tongue out in a little 'you can't ignore me, nyah nyah' gesture before saying, "I guessed you'd be paying a visit. It was a hard mission outland, B-Class that should have been A-Class but of course they – " the tone of disgust could only be for the inactive ninja in charge of handling missions; the enmity between them and active field ninja was legendary and traditional - "messed up the threat-rating of the missing-nin."

Sasuke's mind flashed back to a grizzled bridge-builder trying – and succeeding – to play on Konoha's good graces.

"And a good night's sleep would have been nice. Therefore I assumed you'd be coming to interrupt it."

Sasuke felt his lips twitching into a smirk; sternly he commanded himself to keep his expression flat. From the delighted look in Tenten's eyes, he rather thought he was failing.

"So I took pre-emptive measures," Tenten continued, "and had Kunai-chan look for you."

'Kunai-chan?' Sasuke mouthed to himself, then repeated it aloud. "Kunai-chan? Who – or what – is Kunai-chan?" Feeling clever, he slipped into Yong for the more formal cadences. "Surely it were not a weapon? Dost thou not name thy blades for thy future sons? "

Tenten, who did not, in fact, name her kunai – she did have secret names for her favorite melee weapons, but throwing weapons were made to be, well, thrown away, and thus it didn't do to be too attached – answered, "Is 'Kunai' not a fitting name for a warrior's son? I find it so." While Sasuke digested that, she continued, "And Kunai-chan is a wyvern. One of the first that I summoned. I trained him to be able to recognize your scent, and set him to scout for you tonight. He found you, he returned to me, and then...I found you," she finished, looking very pleased with herself.

Several questions whirred in Sasuke's head, among them being 'how did she train a wyvern', 'how did she train a wyvern to recognize my scent', 'does she really want to name her son Kunai', and 'did she like my present' but what came out of his mouth was this: "You're naming the wyverns after weapons?"

"Whyever not?" Tenten shrugged. "They're certainly as dangerous as weapons, aren't you Kunai-chan," she cooed to a small green wyvern – Sasuke now noticed – hovering at her shoulder. It chirruped its agreement, rubbing its head against her cheek. "And the names of such as these be not meant for the tongues of humans."

She caressed the top of the wyvern's head with her fingertips, smiling as the squirrel-sized animal pushed its head against her fingers, purring. With a last farewell pat she dismissed it, withdrawing the chakra needed to keep it in summon. The green wyvern disappeared in a puff of smoke.

She turned back to Sasuke, her eyes still bright and happy – expectant, Sasuke realized, not needing his Sharingan to read Tenten's expression.

"I hold something to gift thee with," Tenten sing-songed. Muscles unaccustomed to the expression twinged as her smile widened.

"Oh?" Sasuke said, one eyebrow rising.

"I do. Dost thou desire knowledge of what it is I hold?" Tenten asked, her tone and expression clearly inviting him to ask.

Sasuke rolled his eyes lightly, unable to keep a half-quirk from his lips as he obediently parroted, "What is it that thou holds, o my lady?" The half-mocking expression quickly dropped from his face as he saw what she held out to him.

An Uchiha deep-training scroll, the wax seal proudly bearing the Uchiha clan emblem.

"Where did you get that!"

Tenten grinned, pleased with herself and with Sasuke's awed reaction. "Where does one procure the secrets of the Uchiha save for the Uchiha compound?" she asked, lightly.

Sasuke looked at her. "You got into the Uchiha compound?"

"Pfft. It were easy," Tenten said tauntingly, then winced as her shoulder throbbed in pain. Involuntarily her hand came up to rub it, and she froze under Sasuke's contemplative glance.

"Alright, alright," she admitted. "It was as difficult as the hundred trials of the Monkey King." Most shinobi clans were paranoid anyway, but having to deal with criminals and assorted other breaking-in-and-stealing types for a living made the Uchiha even more…security-conscious than most. Their walled and isolated – almost out of Konoha limits – compound was laced with more traps and seals than any other two clans combined. Even now, four years after the last of the Uchiha had left it with all its defenses activated, to survive the outer ring of defenses was something the riskier of the ANBU dared each other to do – and it was a challenge only ever accepted with the help of copious amounts of alcohol. To win through to the inner ring, much less to actually get to the dwellings and temple and so on, was not a thought to be entertained.

Except for someone who had a reason to get in.

Tenten, with a very attentive Sasuke as a captive audience, spent a good chunk of the night explaining – interspersed with Sasuke's eager questioning – how she had managed to infiltrate – the word was entirely appropriate – his clan's compound. She gave him full credit for the stories of his childhood wherein he had revealed this or that about the compound, giving her reference points to build off.

(Sasuke felt a little…odd about how closely she had appeared to listen to him. It was…a nice kind of odd.)

Then she moaned about the weeks of research that had gone into the endeavor – scrolls on seals, and traps, and undoing said seals and traps safely or at least avoiding them; books on traditional Konoha architecture, and the properties of cement and paving-stone and roof-tile and wood and bamboo used in it; secretly pulling up blueprints of the Uchiha compound, because while her interest in traps and seals could be explained by her job, and the books by a new-found profession of love for architecture, it would be hard to explain that. Luckily an ANBU lieutenant had a conveniently high access-level clearance.

Sasuke, who knew very well that Tenten dove into research the same way alcoholics did into bars, half-smirked as he imagined the girl plowing through sheaves of reading material.

She had then explained how she had used some of the smaller wyverns, like Kunai-chan and Sai-chan and Nyf-chan (a foreign word for 'knife' she explained to Sasuke) to scout out the interior. By the time she had done, she had more information available to her than most shinobi had on A-rank mission briefings.

She was more reticent, though, when it came to speaking of the actual infiltration. She tried to brush over it in words like barest lines of a picture, dropping place-names as markers – from northern wall to central street near the main gates to the three-peaked roof of the Elders' Hall to the white temple – without mention of the paths she must have made between them.

However, it was easy for Sasuke – his memory jump-started by her earlier ramblings about blueprints and architecture – to fill in the blanks. The pit of sharpened stakes. The tiger-traps. The line of seals that burned the unauthorized. The seal to increase gravity enough to crush. The razor-wire. The hidden blades.

Later that night, as she slept the deep, exhausted slumber she had been sure Sasuke would interrupt (he would have, too) Sasuke paused before examining the scroll to look at her. She had been favoring her right leg a little, and breathing too controlledly – like someone careful not to place undue pressure on healing ribs. There were faint bruises on her skin, and – as she shifted her ANBU-issue top had ridden up (he had only pulled it up a little bit more) – he could see her entire torso swathed in bandages.

He leaned back against a tree-trunk and considered, hefting the scroll thoughtfully in one hand as he did so.


The way Tenten shifts from Yong to Nippon is kind of based on how I mix my English and Tagalog. Of course the parallels aren't exact, but you takes what you gots, right:P

Edit1: changed the thing about the mission. Because ANBU don't take mission from clients, do they? They're more for Konoha special business.

Thanks mucho to my reviewers, especially Celira (And yesssss, another Luke/Mara fan! I would glomp you if I could) Shikyo Yaiba, Matahari, Amatyultare256, starlight15 and Wielder of paperclips. (If this series has a scene in Konoha, you can be sure Shikamaru is going to be in it. XD )

qui audet vincit: who dares, wins. Motto of the British SAS.