I'M BACK.

Notes: This is one of those exercises wherein one writes a sentence based on a word prompt. They come in sets, usually, and in this case there are fifty. The events in these sentences are not in chronological order. They are a part of the Middle Ground world, but they can stand completely alone. I reference my OOC Katsu (Shino's grandfather) from Middle Ground once or twice, but it's pretty clear who he is in the sentence. Written mostly while listening to Saosin's "Let Go Control." Good song.

Goals: This is an exercise to get back into writing after an extended absence. And I've always wanted to do one of these.

Warnings: Punctuation abuse ahead; the semi-colon suffers most.

Strange and Beautiful

A Shino/Tenten One Sentence Challenge

1. Walking – Tenten's hips are narrow and her chest is smaller than most grown women, but Shino notes how gracefully she paces at his side and thus is unsurprised at the number of men who watch her pass.

2. Waltz – The rock crumbles under her weight and sends her plummeting to the earth far below, until a glittering black mass blossoms from the trees and suddenly Tenten is dancing on air as the kikkai buzz beneath her feet.

3. Wishes – "I am no different from any other man," Shino tells her, "in that I, too, often want things I cannot have."

4. Wonder – Tenten loves to fight him in the open at night; the brilliant moonlight reflects off the swarm, making Shino appear to be surrounded by dancing flecks of quicksilver.

5. Worry – "I wasn't waiting up for you," she denies vehemently, "There was a perfectly legitimate reason I was in the Hokage's office at two in the morning, and as soon as I remember it, I'll tell you."

6. Whimsy – "Dance with me," Shino says suddenly, and Tenten stares at him in mild shock as he shrugs and adds, "If our teammates had arrived one minute later than they did, neither you nor I would have ever danced again."

7. Waste/wasteland – Shino stands before the memorial stone and thinks, this is what it means to be shinobi.

8. Whiskey and rum – "Hey, it was me 'r' Shino," Tenten slurs righteously, pointing an accusing finger at Rock Lee (her hand is perfectly steady, it's her green-clad teammate who is jumping, wobbling, and splitting into three people all over the place), "an' trust you me, bub, you'd way rather suffer my wrath than his."

9. War – Against the vicious, screaming enemy shinobi, Shino is cold, steady, detached; when it is Tenten standing across from him with anger in her words and hurt in her eyes, he feels flushed, unstable, and all too vulnerable.

10. Weddings – "Happily ever after," Tenten murmurs as if to herself, and then laughs as he raises an eyebrow, "Like it's ever that easy, right?"

11. Birthday – Hinata gives him a rare scroll on etymology, Kiba buys lunch, and Kurenai sends him a brace of well-crafted shuriken; no other non-Aburame knows his birthday, so when Tenten shows up at his door with a gorgeous Lotis Blue cupped gently in her hands, he thinks he'll either have to thank Hinata or punch Kiba for telling her.

12. Blessing – Tenten likes the Aburame complex; the large, complicated family that occasionally irritates Shino is a blessing to the girl who has lived alone most her life.

13. Bias – She's always had a thing for the quiet ones after all, so she writes it off as just an instinctual attempt to balance the noise of her perpetually 'youthful' teammate and sensei.

14. Burning – He spends the next three long hours contemplating the pros and cons of gloves, as the heat from her brief kiss sears slowly into the palm of his hand.

15. Breathing – She hurls the words at him like weapons (she has perfect aim, even when she doesn't mean to), and he goes still as a statue - a cold gray carving replacing the living, breathing man.

16. Breaking – This is what Konoha teaches her: to throw, to block, to attack, to defend, to grow, to hurt, to bleed, to get the job done anyway, to love her teammates, to hate her weaknesses, to fight until she breaks, and then to get up and fight some more.

17. Belief – This is what Konoha teaches him: to observe, to analyze, to plan, to hide, to trust his team, to do his duty, to acknowledge strength, to overcome limitations, to improve himself, to believe that even when he stands against armies he never stands alone.

18. Balloon – She feels her heart swell like a balloon on a warm day; if he says something like that again, she thinks a little sheepishly, I'm going to start floating in the air and won't that just be embarrassing?

19. Balcony – Tenten rolls her eyes and jokes, "Romeo, oh Romeo, where the hell art thou, Romeo?" and Ino points over her shoulder ("Right there, sweetcheeks,") to a tall, dark shape across the Hokage's office, laughing as Tenten's face turns fiercely red.

20. Bane – Sometimes - like when she watches Neji block every single one of her weapons without breaking a sweat, or Lee rocketing by so fast that she can't even see him properly, let alone calculate a trajectory - she bites the inside of her cheek and hates her ordinary body, her unremarkable soul.

21. Quiet – This is what Shino teaches her: to ask questions, to plot, to enjoy meditation, to feel attractive without sacrificing her strength, to see the patterns in life, to hear the things people do not say, to recognize love in a quiet man's touch.

22. Quirks – This is what Tenten teaches him: to test for good forge-work, to eat junk food, to laugh at himself, to move past his failures, to hurt, to forgive, to enjoy the funny little quirks of life, to love without needing it returned, to delight when it is.

23. Question – She keeps her eyes stubbornly dry as she wrenches the zipper of her bag closed and stomps to the door; then he asks her, "Will you be back?" in that goddamn expressionless tone and suddenly she's half-blind with tears.

24. Quarrel – "All married couples should learn the art of battle as well as the art of making love," Shino's grandfather says wisely, and Shino debates being mortified as Tenten nods and jokingly asks if they should practice both at the same time.

25. Quitting – He sits in the middle of his empty house for hours after she walks out; until she suddenly walks back in, grabs his collar, and yells into his face that he's a moron and a loser and other unrepeatable things for not coming after her so they could fight this out and have done with it, and he knows he'll never give up on her again.

26. Jump – There's a hell of a big gap between 'I enjoy your company' and 'I am deeply, utterly madly in love with you with all my bug-infested heart,' as Tenten has to keep reminding Ino (and, once or twice, herself).

27. Jester - "Actually, he's got a really great sense of humor," Tenten blurts out, and then pretends to ignore the queue of unbelieving stares her mission partners give her.

28. Jousting – He does everything in his power to defeat her when they spar, including play dirty; the moment she wins, really wins, the excuse (she just wants to beat him, an unquestionable victory, just once) that keeps them meeting on the training fields will turn brittle and unsure.

29. Jewel – After very close, careful consideration, he decides that her eyes are in no way like jewels at all; no stone could ever be that alive.

30. Just - "I may well be the only suitable person for the job," Shino agrees, surprising himself with the level of coldness in his tone (that fierce hurt look on her face always does affect him more than he likes to admit), "but that does not necessarily obligate me to do it."

31. Smirk – Tenten convinces herself that he must be the smirking type (the stoney-faced ones always are, right?) until one day Hinata points out a beautifully colored insect to him and Tenten actually gets a chance to see him smile.

32. Sorrow – She stomps her furious way down the road, making a lot more noise than necessary just to be sure the idiot knows which way to follow; three hours later when he still hasn't caught up to her (and she can no longer pretend his absence is due to his extreme retardation), she sits quietly on a bench and lets the silence wash over her.

33. Stupidity - "That would be unwise," comes a deep, dangerously emotionless voice from the shadows behind her, and Tenten would smile if her face wasn't bleeding so bad when the jerk who's been threating to kill her starts to scream.

34. Serenade – "I cannot agree with such a preposterous statement," Aburame Katsu says gravely, "If love were indeed a song, my poor tone-deaf grandson would never be able to stop singing, and I would be forced to kill him out of both pity and self defense."

35. Sarcasm – When Shino reminds her that yesterday she had approved of the mission, she gives him a dirty look and reminds him that A, he is a moron, B, she was being sarcastic (and he knew it), and C, he is a moron.

36. Sordid - "I cannot believe you are willing to risk your life – and the life we've made together - sorting out some useless, idiotic nobleman's sordid past!"

37. Soliloquy – She's still angry with him for accepting what she deems a foolishly dangerous mission, but she hugs him goodbye anyway; he feels her worry and love in every tiny movement she makes against him, her silent request that he come home again.

38. Sojourn – Kiba scowls at him fiercely and demands, once again, to know why he's so set on making such a long friggin' trip by himself when he could just as easily have some company, but Shino merely shrugs and says mildly that he can make the journey faster alone.

39. Share – "I promised to share your life with you," she tells him, arms crossed in that no-nonsense way of hers, "even the stupid, irritating, dangerous parts."

40. Nowhere - "Lover, I would follow you to the ass end of nowhere if you felt the need for the trip," she laughs, and he isn't sure whether to be pleased or utterly exasperated.

41. Solitary – He wants to tell her that she's putting them both in more danger by coming than by letting him go alone, but there have never been any words he could say that would convince her to leave him once she's chosen to stay (and if there were, he would never, ever say them).

42. Neutral – Kiba (who had many girlfriends) had once told Shino that the way to deal with women and clothes was to be completely neutral about everything ("because there ain't shit you can say that won't be the wrong answer anyway"); when he sees the tiny spark of self-doubt in Tenten's face as she models a skirt, he chucks that advice straight in the trash and takes pains to tell her how beautiful she is.

43. Nuance – She's repairing an old katana, he's studying a (stolen) text on another clan's hive-control techniques; Ino thinks it's the most unromantic scene in the world until Tenten stretches stiffly and, without looking up, Shino reaches out and rubs the sore spot with one hand.

44. Near – Sometimes it shakes him a little when he dwells on how close they come (every mission, every day) to losing each other.

45. Natural – Her greatest beauty, he tells her once to her delight and mild embarrassment (seven years married and he can still make her blush) is the extraordinary natural grace of her every movement.

46. Horizon – Her team has always been about setting their sights on far horizons and then working their butts off getting there; so when she does finally get around to admitting that she wants Aburame Shino, Tenten goes through the whole standard routine of crafting a mission statement, setting up a strategic step-by-step plan, and then putting her whole heart into the effort (she forgoes the ritual announcement of her goal to her teammates, however).

47. Valiant- His team has always focused on improving their natural extrasensory gifts; so when his kikkai start sending him strangely powerful but slightly confusing signals regarding Tenten's emotional and physical state, he focuses a great deal on deciphering the information (making a valiant effort not to interpret the gathered data as signs that she's reacting to his presence as strongly as he reacts to hers simply because he wants it to be true).

48. Virtuous – It won't take so long for him to make his report, and patience is a virtue, sure; but frankly, Tenten thinks as she bursts out the door to meet him at the village gates, if it's a choice between Shino and virtue, well, that's no choice at all.

49. Victory – "I win again," he says smugly, as she lays helpless and gasping on the floor and pleading for him to stop, the little bastards are tickling, you horrible cheating jerk!

50. Defeat – "Oh shut up and kiss me already," she replies, deftly knocking him off balance and rolling to pin him under her.