Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.
Author's notes: I tend to think of Tenten as more tomboyish than Ino or Sakura, but vulnerable when it comes to her teammates. And I wanted to write something dealing with their absence. This is what came from it. Hopefully not OOC. Comments?
He finds her at their usual training ground, sitting dejectedly in a pile of straw from a disemboweled dummy. Her chin is cradled in her hand, and her brown eyes are unfocused. Weapons are spread around her, stuck randomly into this and that. A few are bent, lying uncared for upon the ground, and it's that which clues him in on her distress.
"Tenten, my flower?" He whispers it gently, so as not to startle her. A frightened Tenten is a Tenten who will throw sharp things first and ask questions later.
There is a long moment where she doesn't react, but finally her eyes lift to meet his. What he's sees reflected there is not the soul of his cheerful, straightforward little girl, and it shocks him.
"Yes, Sensei?" Even her voice is different: too quiet, and without it's usual fire.
Gai continues, unnerved. "I received a dark, disappointing notice that you didn't attend your youthful kunoichi class this afternoon. Would you care to tell me why, Sweetheart?"
Kunoichi classes are called occasionally for female ninja, and during these they are taught lessons that they were too young to learn during their Academy years. Often the courses are about seduction, or various forms of birth control. Sometimes, but rarely, they learn how to use a man's body against him.
Tenten hates these classes with a passion, but she's never just skipped them.
"I didn't want to sit there and learn the twelve steps to batting my eyelashes! It's ridiculous, the whole thing! Lee is missing, and Neji's gone on that mission, and they might be dying, and I'm supposed to learn to flirt?"
She picks up a shuriken and hurls it viciously. It whirls away past him into the forest, and he hears it thud into a distant tree.
So they've come to the truth. This isn't about feminism or inequalities, although Tenten is always willing to address those matters. Simply put, this is a young girl missing her friends, her comrades, and so worried that she is unable function.
He's proved right when she bursts into tears, burying her face in her hands. It's the first time he's ever seen her cry.
Gai moves to sit next to her. "They'll come back. In the meantime, though, you should not neglect your important studies."
She nods, and sniffles. They can argue about the importance of such lessons later. "Don't tell them about this."
Gai knows exactly who she means. "Don't worry, dearest Tenten. Your secret is safe with me! I shall take it with me to the grave!"
The mention of graves is not at all helpful. After a long while, she cries herself out.
A few days later, her teammates return and are healing. She visits them in the hospital, and listens to their slightly exaggerated accounts of their respective fights.
Then, just to prove that she was also kept busy, that they weren't the only ones who experienced something new, she smiles brightly and bats her eyes just so, allowing a flush to come to her cheeks. Then she leaves hurriedly, seemingly too embarrassed to remain in their presence.
Both boys gape after her, thoroughly confused.