Title: Only the Beginning
Type: Fanfic
Fandom: Naruto
Character(s): Tenten, Uchiha Sasuke; brief mentions of Hyuuga Neji, Rock Lee, Maito Gai
Pairing(s): SasuTen
Warning(s): None
Disclaimer: I own nothing but these words.
Note: Late giftfic for Christmas. Based on a randomly suggested RP session that was too cute to pass up.
Dedicated to: Cyberwolf

With a calm and somewhat careless sort of air, the kunoichi silently regarded her companion a moment before taking another sip of the tea. Lotus green tea. His choice. Although she had not been inclined to disagree with the order when he had made it. And from there on, Tenten could not help but be curious of his intentions and/or level of commitment in this endeavor. After all, it certainly could not have been a mere coincidence that Uchiha Sasuke had chosen her favorite tea out of all the other selections they served, knowing enough to place an order without ever asking her what she preferred. But those things she could inquire about at a later time. There were other more important things that needed the young woman's attention.

Thus far, he had proven himself to be extremely determined. Perhaps blunt to a fault. And as far as Tenten knew, Sasuke was being truthful as well. Then again, she was not trained in interrogation. Deception was a shinobi art form after all. They had trained them all for years in the skill during their Academy days to at least instill some foothold in the craft. And with his Sharingan, Sasuke could very easily falsify anything he wished. However, the kunoichi had always viewed herself as a good judge of character. Whether that would be true of her or not on this matter would and could only be determined in due time.

"So..." he finally voiced, sounding somewhat hesitant in his approach, "May I ask a question as well?"

"I suppose it's only fair after answering all of mine," she replied after a pause, a slight incline of her head and an easy gesture of her hand indicating that he could, "Just know that it does not mean that I'm required to answer."

"Noted." His voice and tone, she noted, was quiet. Soft. Calm. Reserved. A little deeper than how it was a few years ago, but still every bit of how she remembered him to be when they had been younger. When power and a certain snake Sannin had not yet begun to corrupt his all to easily persuaded mind. And his tongue was less sharp, though she was quick to remind herself that even the tiniest ant held a deadly bite when it felt challenged.

Not for the first time in her life, Tenten mentally compared it to how Neji had used to be in those days. The way he carried himself in a superior sort of air. The way he had always spoke, when he was so inclined to speak, that is. It was respectful, but with a certain edge of arrogant pride. Maybe it's a clan thing.

Her attention was drawn back to him when he shifted closer, leaned in so that Tenten could hear his softly spoken words of inquiry. "Am I going have to fight the Hyuuga?"

At that, the kunoichi quirked a curious brow in his general direction, even as her fingers toyed with the lip of her cup. A curious question indeed, but not one she had not been expecting. "Do you think you'll have to fight the Hyuuga?"

"Yes." The beliefs concerning her relationship with the male members of Team Gai were common. And somewhat annoying at best. However, while the constant inquiry from curious and nearly heartbroken fans of the young Hyuuga was a source of constant headaches, the sincerity of Sasuke's concerns made the experience different for Tenten. Then again, she noted, men conducted competition differently than women. At least, that was true concerning the people who resided in Konoha.

"He has the advantage of time over me," he said, almost as an afterthought. And when she gave no response or reaction to it, Sasuke elaborated further. "He's had a head-start on getting to know you."

"I'm not some property to be won with a fight, if that's what you're thinking," Tenten was quick to say.

"No, you're not," the young Uchiha calmly agreed, taking a moment to finally take a sip of his tea, "But I will fight to keep others from interfering."

"Taking out the prospects of competition, before they have a chance to become an obstacle. Tactful." Such determination and resolve in his voice. Such a passion for what he wanted. Even as the young woman looked into his eyes for the truth, she could see a fire burning within the glassy surface of his onyx eyes. Sasuke was not the sort to waste his efforts. Not when he obviously had clear goals in mind. And while at times it seemed as if he went to huge extremes to achieve them, at the very least, the young Uchiha could say that he did well in reaching them.

"...You have nothing to worry about." And even as she voiced that thought, Tenten curled her fingers around the teacup in a docile sort of way, leaning forward to lightly rest her forearms against the edge of the tabletop. In the reflective surface of the dark liquid, she watched the reversed image of herself waver and shift with each small ripple of the surface. "As far as I know, he has no interest."

That was when a pale hand came into view, slipping in to rest firmly over the deceptive reflection. "Then in that, I definitely best him."

Surprised and somewhat shocked at the boldness of his gesture -- bold for one who was not known for sympathy or even the intimacy of touch outside of the battlefield -- Tenten lifted her head and fully met the intensity of his gaze like any other opponent she had been forced to face. "Yes. Apparently, you do."

The two remained so for another minute more, her staring into the deep dark swirls of his eyes and him staring right back into her honey-brown depths. Until uncertainty and the weight of his stare came to be too much for Tenten, forcing her to shift her gaze down to the pale flesh of his hand hovering over her cup. And with a gentle tug, Sasuke was brought out of the moment as well, quickly turning away and withdrawing his hand.

Finally able to, she lifted the cup to her lips, took a moment to breathe in the sweet scent of the lotus within the drink, and slowly sip of the warm liquid nirvana. A soft smile played across the kunoichi's lips when the flavor flowed freely over her taste buds and slide soothingly down her throat. Certainly, it was a fine contrast to the cool breeze that was blowing through the cafe's open windows. Tenten would definitely have to make note to come here again. With or without the Uchiha.

"So...?" Speaking of which...

"So... what?" Tenten was quick to retort, a twitch of a smirk etched in the corner of her lips at the hint of impatience she heard in his tone.

"I've answered all of your questions," he said simply, "Unless there are others, I'd like an answer to mine."

In spite of herself and the seriousness of Sasuke's inquiry, the kunoichi smirked and easily leaned back in her seat to better regard him. "I've already answered it."

"I meant the first one."

From across the table, a gentle smile still lingering on the corners of her mouth, Tenten breathed in deeply in thought. Then she gave a long, steady sigh, the little quirks of her lips disappearing along with it. To take up the empty space that stood between them. To fill in the silence that seemed to stretch on forever. To further build on the anticipation that had already began to build ever since the moment he had approached her with this idea. This was a delicate matter and an important decision, after all. However long the young Uchiha had spent pondering the possibilities, he could wait a few seconds more. At least for her amusement.

"You do realize that courting me entails dealing with Neji, Lee, and Gai-sensei, right?" the kunoichi finally said, quirking a brow in his general direction, "Constantly."

In reaction and out of curiosity, he quirked his brow as well. "Is that a yes?"

She shifted uncomfortably around to rest her forearm against the edge of the table, thin brows furrowing just slightly to convey her seriousness on the matter. "I care for my team. Know that any insult to them will be a strike against you."

"...Is that a yes?"

"And I don't expect special treatment just because you feel so inclined as to court me," she continued, giving little pause his inquiry, "As you've probably learned over the years, I'm not that easily impressed."

Here, Sasuke only smirked before saying with a bit of confidence, "I'll take that as a yes."

"I never said yes."

"You never said no."

Opening her mouth with the intent to retort, Tenten paused. Because there was nothing that could be said to contradict his claim, though try as she might to think of one. It was then that she began to re-evaluate the possibilities between them, easing back in her seat and curiously brushing a finger along her bottom lip in thought. He was certainly a challenge, that was for sure. And perhaps that was part of the appeal. Then again, he could probably say the very same thing of her. In that, were a few of his reasons for this attempt validated. And surely, what other man other than a prodigal mastermind would be able to keep up with her brand of psychological warfare? To break through the various barriers she had placed up around herself over the years?

"Fine," Tenten finally said with a smirk, the only word of agreement the proud kunoichi was willing to make as she easily slid her chair back from the table, "Then consider this our first date."

And with that, she stood up from from her seat and proceeded to leave the cafe. Not another word was spoken between the two. None were necessary, at least not for her part. But had she stayed a while longer, Tenten would have had the pleasure of hearing Sasuke's determined response after the clouded shock and fluster in his mind had cleared enough to muster a reaction.

"...The first of many..."