The Desert's Lonely Cry

"Sorry, Tenten, but Ino's going to be here any minute. We're going to that new restaurant that opened up a couple of days ago…ah, yes, the Akimichi's!! Chouji says he helps there sometimes, and offered us a discount."

"Chouji?" Tenten was lying on her stomach, chin propped in hand as she idly twirled the phone cord between her calloused fingers. "Ah, I haven't seen him around lately. That's nice of him."

"It is. Ino was really excited about it, so I just couldn't turn her down." Sakura's voice started cheerful and tinkling, but transitioned to apologetic and pitying.

Tenten was a strong girl. One of the top kunoichi in her village—second to the ex-apprentice of the former Hokage—she could easily bat down A-class ninjas without breaking a sweat. This feat took her years of pure, bloody, hard work, and such stature was only accomplished by the illusive ANBU and the talented Jônin of the village. She was proud of this.

She deserved to be irritated that one of her friends had just turned her down on one of her very precious days off—again. However, unfortunately for Tenten, virtually no one in Konohagakure was immune to Haruno Sakura's ultimate attack—Puppy-dog-eyes-no-jutsu (even the stuffy old cronies in the council). It was deadly, and could easily be sensed through something as measly as a phone conversation. Still, she was the second-best kunoichi, so she stoically held her ground for an all-time record of 27 seconds.

Tenten quickly wilted afterwards.

"I know, I know. A hot date with your girlfriend—that's hard to say no to. Hey, its okay, I understand. There'll be other days when we can get together." Tenten lied feebly between her teeth. As a newly appointed ANBU member, the skin around the new tattooed insignia of the Black Ops still tender, Tenten was working twice as much as the older and more experienced members to earn her keep, and, as mentioned, found it harder and harder as the days passed to find days off.

Sakura laughed, and it was obvious she was relieved by Tenten's response, however weak it was. "Yeah, there will, won't there? And when there is, Ino, Hinata, and I will take you shopping! We'll have a blast!"

Shopping? Tenten could only force an unconvincing laugh at best—but it was enough to fool her. "Yes, yes…shopping. Fun."

"Oh, you're just an old hermit. You should get out more. Stop and smell the roses once in a while, Tenten! Life's not all about training and getting tough."

She raised an eyebrow, feeling the corners of her lips quirk up. "So says the former apprentice of the famous Sannin-turned Hokage who was known for working herself to death on a daily basis." As it was, Shizune often had to tie Sakura to her hospital bed with chakra-enhanced ropes—just like Naruto, ironically—to keep her from going to the training grounds.

"Hmph. I can't believe you still remember that."

"You make it sound like I'm old and wrinkly or something."

Sakura made a curious noise that sounded something like a cross between an outraged cry and an indignant gasp. "Tenten! You're neither old nor wrinkly!"

"Oh, I don't know, I thought I saw a wrinkle today," Tenten felt a grin unfurl across her tanned face. It felt nice to tease her friend once in a while, and decided to act on her chance while she had it. "Does this mean I'm getting ugly? And old? Because wrinkles mean I'm getting old and decrepit, right? Why, Sakura, how could you ever say such a thing to me?"

"N-no! You misunderstand me! That's not what I meant!" Tenten imagined Sakura pacing, emerald eyes wide open in panic, hands waving frantically as if to ward off such accusations.

Before her friend could start begging her forgiveness—Haruno Sakura was surprisingly one of the most gullible people she knew—Tenten interrupted. "I'm kidding, Sakura."

"…and if you'll just let me convince you of my sincerity, I'll—wait. What?"

Tenten rolled her eyes, sitting up on her bed to stare out of the window. The sky would look especially nice in the evening. It was almost a full moon. "I said I was kidding. Has anyone ever told you that you're a real dupe?"

She could practically hear the gears turning in Sakura's head. "A what?"

"For one of the most intelligent kunoichi in this village, you're pretty stupid, you know?"

"Hey! I'll have you know that I—oh, that's Ino. Well, I have to go now. I'll call you, okay?"

"That's fine."

"Okay. Yeah. So…talk to you then?"

"Yeah. 'Bye."

"Ta ta, dearie! Don't do anything too dumb while I'm gone."

"Same. Don't forget the handkerchief." Tenten couldn't stop herself from letting out an amused snicker. It was widely known that on Sakura's first date with Yamanaka Ino, she had her first ever official nosebleed at the sight of the blonde beauty. It was hilarious that people still reminded her about it on a monthly basis.

"S-shut up. I only had one nosebleed, dammit! Why does everyone remember that?"

"Dunno. Enjoy your date." Sakura made a quick agreeing sound before hanging up.

Click.

Tenten stared at the phone in her limp grasp before listlessly gazing out into the sky. It was nearly sunset and the sky was bleeding red and flushed with pinks and splashes of purple. A lovely setting for a date, like the one Ino and Sakura were going on.

She stepped out onto the rather spacious balcony, shivering pleasantly as a cool wind caressed her warm flesh, tugging lightly at her luxurious brown hair, out of its signature two-bun hairstyle for once. It was almost summertime, and the days (and nights) were getting warmer. Although clad in nothing but a surprisingly lacy brassiere and silk shorts that shrunk in the wash, Tenten was sure no one would come around this part of Konoha at sunset. Everyone was most likely in the busy streets, out laughing with friends and loved ones.

Loved ones.

Something that Tenten never really had until she joined Team Gai. There she met the exuberant Maito Gai, an odd man with an odd taste in fashion and blindingly-white grins, but a fiercely loyal Jounin and friend she had ever met. Along with her now ex-sensei was Rock Lee—a quirky guy with seemingly no talents who unveiled his spectacular taijutsu techniques with the careful yet exuberant tutoring of Gai and support of his teammates, but had a golden heart and was impossible to stay mad at for long. Hyuuga Neji. At first he seemed like a cold, arrogant jerk, but slowly—with a little help from the antics of his team—changed into a man that was well respected and feared. However, beyond this shallow surface was her fellow teammate and partner, someone who protected her and allowed her to protect him for once.

These three men were, at first, unimpressive, but together they earned a place in Tenten's heart where no one else had touched. They were her friends, teammates, and family, and she wouldn't know where she would be now if she hadn't met them. The train of thought frightened her, and she let it die where it was, unformed and unacknowledged somewhere in the back of her mind.

She never had family either.

This was another unpleasant thought that she wished it would stay away, but she could never stop it.

Orphaned at a young age, she was abandoned at a local orphanage but was mistreated and abused by the orphanage director and was sent elsewhere. Finally, after being shuffled from foster home to home, she was granted her very own apartment at the tender age of 8. No friends to speak of—they all avoided her like the plague.

She would hear people whisper as she walked down the dusty road, like she wasn't there, where she could hear them, and shoot these looks at her.

Pitying looks.

Sad looks.

Afraid looks.

She wanted to scream at them, snarl and kick and pull at their hair and tell them that she didn't need their pity, their fear, their depressing faces. 'I'm just like you!' Tenten wanted to scream at the top of her lungs, grab them by the shoulders and shake them till their teeth rattled violently. 'Why can't you treat me like you treat them? Why am I so different?'

She wasn't, really. She wasn't so different than everyone. But everyone saw the girl Tenten, a girl with a bun on the back of her head—she only had one back then—but could never really see her.

She was Tenten. Nothing less and nothing more. And that's what made her different.

Tenten lived in her own dark and desolate world until she entered the Ninja Academy. Suddenly, everything was set on fast-forward and became a jumbled blur of sights, sounds, and colors, racing past her in a heartbeat until she was where she was now, standing on her balcony in skimpy sleepwear, alone, yet not alone.

She had friends now. She had friends and people she could proudly call her family and her precious people that she would forever protect.

Alone, yet not alone.

Her apartment was filled with photos of her precious people, but she was the only one in the lonely hallways to look at them.

Alone…I am…alone…but…not…how can this be how can I be like thi—

She was surrounded by colleagues, some acquaintances of hers and some unknown to her, every day, but the world was muted, painted in dull, drab colors. She felt as if she was sinking, falling to the forest floor as she sped through treetops at inhuman speeds.

People constantly asked her, the famed Mistress of Weapons, why she purposely endangered herself and plotted her skills against the enemy's. Was it the adrenaline rush? Was it the satisfaction of beating her foes?

No…I always beat them…no danger…I want to…feel alive…I want to be alive…

Only once in her entire life had she felt the blood pumping furiously through her veins, felt fear and awe and respect leaden her limbs and slow her usually graceful movements, cloud her judgment.

And in the moment, when she felt alive, curiously and wonderfully alive, she felt time slowly tick to a stop.

Biting winds…purple…those eyes…those eyes haunt me…

She stared in to her opponent's eyes, understanding that she was going to be defeated but not accepting it, all of that registering yet not once ever noting the color of her eyes.

Against her will, Tenten felt a smile form on her lips.

Temari.

Wielder of the Winds.

'How curious,' Tenten mused, inhaling the biting winter air, 'How so curious this feeling is…the mention of her name, it makes me feel…empty…but my heart is so full and my mind is so chaotic and I can't think straight.'

She let out an amused huff, running a slender hand through her silky locks. "This is ridiculous. At this rate, I'll be imagining people and thinking that green jumpsuits are insanely cool."

"God, I hope not. Those things are so tacky."

Tenten nodded feverishly. "Yeah, I totally agree with you." She rolled her eyes, unaware of the slight smile playing on her lips as she delved back into her memories. "I remember the time when Gai-sensei gave Neji and me matching outfits—they were a hideous shade of green, of course. But Lee adored them so, and it was his birthday, so Neji actually forwent his pride for once and we wore them for an entire day." She let out a tiny laugh.

Wait a second.

The last time she checked, there was no one coming down along her street, nor was there anyone else in her apartment. She took a quick glance behind her through the doorway. Nope, everything was still dark and lonely. So that meant…

Tenten's eyes widened in horror as realization hit her like a ton of bricks on her. In panic, she whirled to face the intruder, hands scrabbling for the nonexistent kunai pouch at her hip, and, coming up empty, raised her fists in preparation for a hands-on brawl.

"Too late." A husky voice laughed softly, the exhales fanning lightly against the nape of her neck, and Tenten felt the unmistakable press of cold metal against her throat. She froze, not daring to move a muscle, as her would-be attacker seemed quite content where they were.

"I dare say that you've gotten a little slower, Little Miss Weapons Girl. Tsk, tsk, what a shame." Tenten stiffened as she felt a piercing stare bore up over her sculpted shoulders and over to her more…noticeable assets. "Of course, now that you've got these I'm sure you have good reason too."

"Pervert." Tenten couldn't resist muttering under her breath, fingers itching to wipe off the imagined leer from behind her. She couldn't stand these kinds of people, the kind of people that…

With an enraged yell, Tenten firmly grabbed the wrist by her neck and twisted it sharply, and hearing the attacker grunting in pain, she swiftly and effortlessly threw the body over her shoulder. Then she quite literally jumped on the squirming body (which barely made contact to the ground before she leapt), intent on restraining the flailing limbs.

…looked actually quite sexy pinned under Tenten. She blinked. O-kay, she wasn't really expecting a woman to attack her, no matter that she was even from a different village. She squinted at the hitae-ite—Sand.

"Who the hell are you to attack me in my village, woman?" Tenten queried, scowling her best imitation yet of the patented Hyuuga Glare, although her icy façade was not as effective as if she was wearing her mask.

Turquoise eyes stared up at her, smug, full lips curving into yet another sexy little smile—darn it! She was not having dirty thoughts about a—as blonde hair fanned out on the balcony ground. Her whole attitude screamed Eat me! while her eyes said I know something you don't! and that irritated her a bit…a lot…

"Well?" She demanded, furrowing her brow in frustration. In answer, those eyes trailed like a caressing hand down over her lips, trickling beyond her neck and collarbone to her cleavage, which was, unfortunately, only supported by a tiny brassiere.

"I do believe I was right. What are you now—a C?" Eyes burned a trail back up to meet her gaze, an eyebrow lifted in an obvious challenge.

"B. And dammit, why the hell am I telling you this? State your business." She growled, willing the slight redness in her cheeks to go away. Was this woman hitting on her?

"Seems a lot bigger. Not as big as mine, though. See? C cup all the way, baby." She proudly thrust her chest in the general vicinity of Tenten's face, who craned her head back as far as it could go while still keeping the woman below her in sight. "Totally real. If you don't believe me, feel free to touch them." Tenten's felt her eyes bug out, her mouth hanging loosely in disbelief.

"W-what?!" She sputtered. "Argh! You're from Sand, right? Who are you?"

In a flash, their positions were switched, with the woman pinning Tenten beneath her own voluptuous curves. She felt her breath hitch slightly as she realized how very close to having nothing on she was, and that smoldering look was starting to get her all hot.

"Lovely lingerie, by the way," The blonde said offhandedly, as if they were talking about the weather. "I have got to find a bra like that. They don't have shops that sell them in the main strip in Suna. So, maybe…" She leaned in and gave a light nip to her earlobe, her hot breath causing a delicious shudder. "I'll have to try yours on. What do you think, Tenten?"

This time she couldn't stop the full on blush. "I-I wouldn't think that'd be the best idea. And how do you know who I am? Why are you—you're not going to do it, are you? Stop! How dare you touch me without permission!" Tenten began struggling as fingers made their way to the front clasp, leaving goosebumps in their wake.

She stopped her progress and let out another laugh. "I'm not the type to molest the unwilling. But," She said darkly, "I'm pretty sure that you're not in that category."

Tenten was about to retort indignantly when she was cut off by the gentle pressure of lips.

Her eyes widened and her brows creased, but her body refused to fight back when her brain was roaring and shrieking with a great intensity. Struggle stopped altogether when something hot pressed against her cold lips, shock slowing the adrenaline rush that should've provided her with an escape.

And somewhere, some little voice in the back of her mind was telling her six little facts.

One: Tenten was being kissed.

Two: This was Tenten's first kiss.

Three: She was definitely NOT kissing a guy.

Four: This person was not from her village.

Five: She shouldn't be kissing this person.

Six: But she really, really liked it.

This last thought blotted everything else out like spilled ink, and so when their liplock broke in a little smacking noise, a strand of saliva hanging from their panting mouths, Tenten could barely follow what the other woman was saying.

"…and although it was very wonderful kissing you, I have to join my brothers at the meeting. I'm late, by the way. It's your entire fault." The foreign kunoichi made a face.

Tenten had the presence of mind to quirk an eyebrow and go, "My fault? You're the one who attacked me on my property—which is trespassing, by the way—and suddenly started kissing me without permission!"

"True, true," She laughed, sitting up. She studied the woman she was straddling, and suddenly leaned down to brush their swollen lips together before standing and leaping over the balcony in one smooth motion. It took Tenten a couple of seconds to realize the woman had disappeared.

"Of all the—HEY!" She shouted, leaping to her feet and leaning over the balcony, eyes crackling with fire. "Where the hell do you think you're going? I should bring you into the Interrogation Center! Come back here!" Of course, these demands were quite illogical—the Sand shinobi had already vanished. And really, Tenten was not so bold as to give chase unarmed, unaided…undressed…

With a grumble, she stalked back to her room, slamming the doors, the windows rattling slightly. Pulling on her clothes roughly, she fumed, stewing in her anger. She needed a way to work the tension off. What way could she possibly—oh. Yes, of course. Tenten beamed and snatched the cordless phone from the cradle, dialing a memorized number.

"Hyuuga Neji."

"Neji."

"Yes, Tenten?"

"Meet me at the training grounds. Now. And bring your bandages. You're going to need it."

The clan leader scoffed. "Me? Need the bandages? Simply unheard of, Tenten. Besides, we've—" She rolled her eyes and hung up, knowing that he'd be there before she would.

"Stupid stuck-up Hyuugas," She muttered to herself, but in a fond sort of way, her eyes crinkling as she patted her hip in reassurance that her kunai pouch was there before she slipped out of the front door and into the evening.

"Ow."

"I told you, Hyuuga. But no, you're the almighty-clan-leader, and cannot be wrong at all, no sir."

"You're mocking me."

"No kidding, genius."

"I don't like that tone of voice. It's like you're being condescending."

"Like you are to Lee?"

"Yes, like I am to Lee. Why are you so happy that I hurt myself?"

"Because it means I was right."

"For once."

Tenten sat up, squinting angrily down at the cocky bastard, who was smirking slightly, eyes staring smugly up at her.

"I might not be a genius like you are, but just in case you forgot I've just handed your ass to you on a silver platter." Neji seemed to find it quite funny that he could still be very arrogant after, he knew, was beaten black and blue and unable to move very well.

She poked him.

He twitched.

"Ow," he said, eyes never moving from the treetops, where the fading sunlight was filtering through. "You know, is it possible to find pity within yourself to not torment the crippled?"

"First of all, buddy; you're the one that claimed you didn't need the bandages."

"I never said I didn't want salve for my bloody wounds, did I?"

"You've never complained about it before."

"And you've never been this intense before."

"…"

Neji sighed, grimacing slightly as he propped himself up onto his elbow, peering down at his fellow comrade. "You're angry, aren't you?"

Tenten briefly closed her eyes. "I am. I need you to be my punching bag."

"I remember when you used to be my punching bag. What happened to the good old days?" he mused.

"Long gone…" she muttered, swiping angrily at mud that clung to her skin. "…and left before I could even say 'good riddance,' too."

The Hyuuga raised an eyebrow at this. "Something tells me we're not referring to the same thing. What's really on your mind?"

"Oh, you know…it's just that—" An explosion of smoke interrupted her tale, and the two former members of Team Gai spun to face the intruder.

"Hyuuga Neji," A masked ANBU member knelt before the clan leader, "Lord Hokage has summoned you." When the Hyuuga grunted grumpily in reply, he disappeared once more. Sighing, he turned to eye the woman, now sprawled out lazily on the grass.

"Naruto needs me again," Neji grumbled, folding his arms, "He's probably fretting on what to give Hinata for their anniversary. Ch. Idiot." Tenten crinkled her eyes amusedly at him.

"Ahh, Naruto. Tell him I said 'hello,' would you? I haven't seen him in ages, it seems like!"

Neji studied her carefully. "It seems as if you haven't seen anyone recently. Where've you been, anyways?"

"That's for another time, my friend," Tenten waved her hand at him. "Now go, shoo. You must hurry and help Hokage-sama pick out flowers and jewelry. I'm sure he's tearing his hair out by now."

Neji smirked. "Yeah, probably." He paused, hands stilling in their rapid movements to form the transportation seal. "You'll be…all right?"

Tenten smiled, plucking grass from him in a sisterly fashion. "Yes." And he wordlessly left, leaving her standing in the silent forest, arm still extended in midair. Slowly, she let her arm drop to her side.

"…Lee."

The wind ruffled the leaves and long grass softly, carrying with it the faint but unmistakable scent of the taijutsu master.

A shadow appeared before her. "…good evening, Tenten."

"You overheard us, right?"

His head dipped ashamedly. "I'm sorry, but I figured that I should practice my stealth moves so as to…as to…"

"…so as to expand your youthfulness, or something youthful like that?" Tenten smirked, linking her fingers together behind her back. "Lee, stop it. You're way too serious—I mean, maybe I'm just feeling a bit down. I didn't say I was going to end my life or anything, did I?"

"No, but…but…You worry us so, Tenten."

She frowned, not really understanding. "What? How?"

Rock Lee scowled intensely at the ground, an odd action for the normally cheery man. "We are all so proud of your accomplishments—don't doubt that. It's just that…your actions are…what you do, they—why must you punish yourself needlessly!?" He cried out at last, his round eyes widening in anguish.

This threw her off. "Say what?" She laughed, the sound echoing slightly. "Why do you think I'm punishing myself? All I'm doing is training, Lee. Just like you and Neji used to do, back when we were genin."

"But this…this is not training! You've practically disappeared, Tenten! You've isolated yourself, dedicating all of your time and energy to improving yourself when you have no need at all to—you mustn't needlessly punish yourself for something you could not stop."

Her face became harsh. "Is this what it's about? You think I'm hurting myself because of what happened that day? It's been three years, Lee—three years."

His face became helpless, defeated. "Yes, yes…we know. But, still, we…"

His voice died off, and her face lost all of its anger, irritation deflated like a popped balloon. "Oh, Lee…" she glided over to him softly, to where he was kneeled, crying silent tears. "Lee…" In an instant she embraced him, stroking his hair and rocking him slowly. He cried harder. "It's okay, Lee, it'll be okay…"

"It's not your fault," he grated out, pounding the ground violently with a clenched fist, "because it was all mine." His black eyes met hers, anguished, tortured, angry, and defeated. "It was my fault that he died! Not yours! Not Neji's! Mine!" He was overcome with tears once more. "Mine…" he kept repeating softly into her shoulder, shuddering. Tenten felt her own eyes film over, feeling the pain creep back. She hugged him tighter.

A twig snapped.

Tenten immediately maneuvered into a half-crouch, half-stand, shielding Lee protectively from the unwanted intruder. "Who is it?" She barked, "You better have a damn good reason for coming here."

The figure paused, faltering under her killer's stare.

"T-Tenten-sama, you have been summoned to Lord Hokage's office."

Sighing, Tenten gave one last pet to his hair, still in its familiar bowl-cut. "You know that you're like my family, right? I've…never had family before, so… I wouldn't—couldn't—leave you two. I mean, look at you. You're totally helpless without me." They laughed softly together, pulling away from the embrace.

"I sincerely apologize, Tenten," Lee bowed quickly. "And because I have upset our youthful blossom so deeply, I, Rock Lee, beautiful blue beast of Konoha, shall run around the village youthfully 100 times! Yosh!" And with that, he took off.

"Idiot," Tenten muttered, shaking her head. Then her gaze landed on the messenger. "What the hell are you still doing here?" She snapped. He 'eeped' and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. She sighed again before following suit.

The previous Hokage, Tsunade, always had piles of paperwork on her desk. This wasn't because she was an insanely lazy alcoholic (well, maybe a little). It was because the elders in the council gave her too much! Uzumaki Naruto could appreciate her now, however, as he found himself sitting behind the massive desk, glumly signing documents, more often than not. There was no Shizune to guide him; instead, there was a stoically quiet Aburame Shino.

Yes, Shino.

When no one stepped up to the plate at the new Lord Hokage's request, the soon-to-be clan leader volunteered his services, which Naruto had gladly accepted, despite their obvious personality differences.

Shino provided a semblance of peace in the chaotic office, acting as a referee/peace-maker between the Uchiha heir and Uzumaki man (all the while organizing the mess they left afterwards), and in return, Naruto provided companionship to the man.

Inuzuka Kiba had not, it turned out, become the Inuzuka clan leader—Inuzuka Hana instead filled that role—and shortly after requested an elongated mission to Suna with Konoha's ambassador and chief tactician, Nara Shikamaru.

Hyuuga Hinata had deftly earned the right as heiress to her clan, but surprisingly (or not) declined the position offered to her, instead deflecting it over to her (surprised) cousin, Neji. Uproar had commenced at the thought of a main branch member being chosen as leader, but Hinata and Hanabi were adamant about upholding their joint decision, and quickly squashed any more squabbling. She was now wife to the Rokudaime, former heiress to the prestigious Hyuuga family, and teacher to the Ninja Academy.

So, as it happened, Team 8 disbanded in different directions, never really able to keep constant contact with one another despite their tries, and each gravitated toward an enigma, one that was able to keep their world bright and noisy (enter Naruto). Shino and Hinata kept in touch—or as long as two extremely quiet and shy people could, anyways—but Kiba never really returned.

Naruto was an enigma, no matter how crazy or stubborn son-of-a-gun he was.

So this was how Shino became Naruto's assistant and second commander of the Tactics Department (Shikamaru was the first, obviously). And it was also how he became the one to calm the Rokudaime down, in a way (usually by a good rap on the back of the head as Sakura did).

This is what Tenten came upon as she entered the office, ducking immediately to avoid having her head lopped off by a lamp. Ignoring the crash of splintering pottery in the hallway behind her, she proceeded to close the door and observe the scene before her.

One: Sasuke and Naruto were arguing. Again.

Two: Shino whacked Naruto on his head with a heavy medical tome (before it was a broken-off leg from a chair).

Three: The office was a mess (the usual).

Four: The paperwork was done (unusual).

Five: Neji, Shikamaru, Gaara, and another person were inside (very unusual).

She observed this with the calm of a seasoned ninja (that had experienced this multiple times), crossing her arms and waiting for someone to notice her.

"Ah! Tenten-chan!" Naruto called from where he was held in a tight headlock, grinning like he wasn't turning blue, "Long time no see!"

"Dobe." Sasuke snorted, tightening his grip. Naruto squawked and flailed indignantly.

"Oi! I'm the Hokage here! Treat me with respect, dammit!"

"I'll give you some respect when you earn it, idiot."

As their bantering went on, Shino slipped to her side, shaking his head. Tenten snickered and watched him pat his hair into place and smooth down his torn sweater, his face a still, motionless expression.

"How'd it start off this time?" Tenten wanted to know.

"Chopsticks."

"Mm, that sounds just like—" She paused. "Did you just say 'chopsticks'?"

"Aa. The kind women use to pin up their hair."

"Was it important or something?"

"Aa. It was an heirloom of sorts of the Uchiha clan, apparently. Naruto thought they were eating utensils and started eating his lunch with them. It was rather amusing—Uchiha turned a rather interesting shade of purple."

Tenten grinned. "Man, why do I manage to miss the good stuff?" She shook her head. "Anyways…" Stepping into the office further, the kunoichi strode up to the grappling men, intent on wrestling each other to the ground, raised a foot, and kicked one of them.

"Ow!" Sasuke snarled, rolling out of her reach and leaping up. His black stare was venomous. "What the hell was that for?"

"Listen, Uchiha. Lord Hokage summoned me here and I am not about to wait here all day just because you blew your top when he used your barrettes as a spoon."

"They were chopsticks, not barrettes." Sasuke muttered disdainfully, but stepped back nonetheless.

"Gee, thanks, Tenten—that teme almost strangled me!"

She coughed meaningfully.

"Oh! Yes! Actually, I didn't call you myself—Shikamaru wanted to see you, apparently."

The dark-haired man, hair still in its signature pineapple-styled ponytail, fell into the seat beside her. "Yo."

"Ohayo, Shikamaru," Tenten nodded, "What's up?"

"Normally I'm supposed to go through this whole righteous speech about on behalf of your pride and spirit of Konoha, but after doing it more than ten times it gets rather troublesome." He sighed, rubbing his face roughly with his big hands. "Right. So various kages are coming to Konoha for this big-ass meeting to discuss whatever they talk about. I dunno; I usually don't go."

"It's 'cause you always skip out on us to sleep in a field, Pineapple-head." Naruto grumped.

Ignoring the blond, he continued, "I've already assigned guides, so to speak, for the other seven. Kiba has decided to come back to show the Kazekage around, so I don't have to worry about that. However, an extra person decided to accompany us back, and now I need someone to show her around as well."

"Basically you want me to show a friend of the Kazekage's around," Tenten summarized, "while the meeting is in session?"

Naruto cleared his throat, drawing to his full height. "Tenten, we have hereby assigned you as personal guide and caretaker of Temari of Sunagakure, elder sister of the beloved Kazekage. Please attend to her well and do us proud. That is all."

Tenten blinked, always feeling amazed every time he went serious like this.

"BWAHAHAHA!!" He burst out, tears of mirth running down his face as he laughed, "Boy oh boy, you don't know how long I've wanted to say that!! Believe it!" (He would have kept laughing if Sasuke had not come up behind him and socked him in the head).

"Hello, Tenten." A feminine voice greeted her. Vibrant turquoise eyes laughed at her. "Long time no see."

Her eyes bugged, her mouth forming an 'o' as her expression screamed 'What the hell?'

"EHHH!?!?"

AN ://: Hokay. Wow. This turned out a lot longer than I expected. Eh, sorry for only putting a little TemmyTenny action in the beginning, but there should be some more next chapter…when it comes out…as you all now because I am very talented at procrastination.

. Aaanyways… This was for all of my lovely reviewers, whom I apologize very deeply to. I have put off nearly all of my other fics for a dreadfully long time, and I felt like I should give something for your reading pleasure. I still don't know when the next chapter of the other fics will come out, but I hope to make them worthwhile.

Hopefully.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this chapter of this new story I created (I get ideas for my stories at the strangest times). I've submitted this almost as soon as I finished, so there's probably still typos…help me out and point them out for me, would you? –Bows deeply– THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!

// THIS IS MY DISCLAIMER THAT I DID NOT PUT IN THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY. I. DO. NOT. OWN. NARUTO. AND. CAST. THANK YOU. //