Tenten was brought to arousal by someone repeating her name so loudly they had nearly gone hoarse.
"Tenten!" This continued in a loop until she managed to open her eyes even as her body shifted to let the one yelling at her that she was indeed coming to. At least she attempted to open her eyes, there was a thick crusty substance blocking her left eye from opening completely, weighing down on the lid, and the pounding pain pulsing in her skull told her that any light would only amplify the migraine threatening to empty the contents of her stomach.
"'M 'wake, Lee," the strangled words escaped her desiccated throat without much thought. While she coughed into her shoulder as she finally opened her eyes as much as she possibly could, she could hear the person who had called her name redirect their attention to someone else and speak lazily in an aggravated drawl.
"Tell me I do not sound like Lee."
There was a female voice that was soft, but didn't do much to placate him. She merely explained with exasperation that he had bigger problems than sounding like a ninja that Gaara-sama respected and their conversation died with a drawn out and frustrated "troublesome."
Meanwhile, the coughing did nothing to help the slamming pain concentrated on her left parietal bone, and she wondered to herself if her head had gotten in a fight with a bowling ball.
She moved her left arm to try and clear the crap encrusted over her left eye so she could see more than just a blur of orange light and misshapen objects, but was halted in her attempt by manacles that cut into her wrists. She groaned in pain, letting it slowly escape from her lungs.
Focusing on a visual to help orientate her, she willed the room to come into focus once more.
She found a scowl on an unhappy visage to her left, and further down to that person's left was probably where the female voice originated from. She was able to make out a concerned face. It belonged to someone she had recently made friends with, and mild panic started to finally work its way up in her system.
"Shikamaru? Matsuri?" She heard herself ask with uncertainty. They were chained up in shackles just like she was, all in a room with unrecognizable seals lining the walls. Most likely some type of jutsu that prevented them from molding chakra or traps set to go off if they escaped. It was probably both.
Shikamaru had sounded hoarse now that she thought about it, and someone as lazy as his caliber mustering up that much energy to cause themselves damage to their vocal chords censored mild alarm through her. Yelling and screaming just really weren't his thing.
The shinobi in her set to examine all the details that she could focus on, and she concentrated on the room first.
It was small, underground, and there were no windows. There was one way out, which was a hole in the ceiling far above their heads. All of these things spoke only one thing to her.
They were all going to die here.
Shikamaru eyes looked bloodshot and watery, like he had just suffered a massive sneezing attack. Matsuri's left arm was bruised around the elbow and she looked as if she was still recovering from a struggle. She knew from the alarming amount of blood drying on her shirt and pants that she had been taken unawares by a blunt instrument. If she had to guess, Matsuri had been drugged by some kind of barbiturate in a syringe and Shikamaru had most likely been jutsued and had allergies, or he had been chlorophormed.
"You two are soooo lucky you got knocked out with drugs," she managed to say with minimal slurring.
"We are so relieved that you are awake," Matsuri's voice filled her ears, and she could tell the smaller girl was truly happy she had pulled through, and her voice registered scratchy as well. How long had they been screaming her name?
"How long have I been out? How long have we been here?"
Shikamaru and Matsuri looked at each other a few beats before Matsuri spoke again.
"I was the first one to wake up," she spoke hesitantly, as if she were almost ashamed to speak. "Shikamaru woke up a few short minutes after me." They exchanged glances again.
"When did you wake up?" Tenten tried again, mustering up more force into her voice to reiterate how important it was that she answer the question.
"About two days ago," came the hushed reply. Tenten squeezed her eyes shut tightly. She had been out for quite some time. The trauma to her head might have possibly meant to kill her if she had been out so long.
"Do we know who brought us here?" Tenten tried again and forced herself to swallow a bit of her saliva to help redampen her throat.
"Someone comes to shove a pill down into our mouths once a day. It prevents us from needing to eat or use the bathroom. The person hardly talks to us and wears all black. I believe they are male, most likely foreign, as they have an accent I have never heard before." Shikamaru eyed the door above them as he tilted his head upwards. "He will be here in a few hours. And for all my genius, I have no idea how to get out of here."
It was not the most comforting thing to say, but honest truth was really the only thing she wanted to hear at the moment. She didn't expect him to continue, however, so when he did, she had to refocus her attention to him and not re-evaluate the room with her eyes again to try and find another escape route.
"Matsuri and I have had a long time to talk about it," he began and then pierced his eyes on her, "I can't figure out why you are here."
The thought occurred to her that there had to be a connection between the three of them, but for the life of her, she hadn't put that together yet.
"What do you mean?" her addled brain from the bowling ball type object used to render her lifeless and ultimately bring her to this hell hole, was not quite catching up to speed.
"The best that we can figure is that we were captured to put pressure on Gaara and his siblings. Someone wants paybacks and kidnapping their loved ones was the best way to get results. It's no secret that Temari and I are involved. It was, however, a secret that Masuri and Gaara had been seeing each other romantically. That leaves you." There was a pause so she could take all the information in. She had known about the affair between the younger kunoichi and the Kazekage as she and her had become friends over the last few months.
"You think that I was kidnapped to get to Kankuro?" she asked with a mixture of incredulousness and sarcasm. "Have you met any of the members of my team?" She rallied against the chains that bound her arms and realized there were more that shackled her feet as well. The confinement only served to fuel her into bucking wilder, the chains clanged and banged loudly, "They piss people off by just smiling at them. I think you are barking up the wrong tree."
More exchanged looks as Tenten let more frustration out on the fetters and manacles by trying to twist and writhe out of them. When the tantrum had passed into large gasps of air and splotchy vision that promised blissful unconsciousness, Shikamaru's voice grounded her back to reality.
"Then you might have been taken by mistake." Shikamaru reasoned. "You and I are both Leaf, but…" he hesitated, as if not knowing how to speak his next words without offending her.
"You are an heir to a clan and I am pretty much expendable, yeah, I did the math in what's left of my head. They wouldn't go through the trouble of taking someone unless they had quite a bit of value. Matsuri and you are face cards, worth a hellova lot more points than me. Why bother taking me unless they got the wrong person or they are after pissing off Team Gai? And Gai and Lee and Neji will be pissed that I am gone, by the way." She added in her defense, just so they knew that she might not have a family, but the team she had was the family that would grieve her if she died.
"So the guy that is holding us captive isn't as smart as we originally thought. That will definitely work to our advantage." Shikamaru explained in a lower register as if they might possibly be overhearing their conversation.
Matsuri gave him a wary look, and shifted uncomfortably in her chair. In a small voice she mumbled, "I don't think he made a mistake."
"Matsuri," Shikamaru turned to face her, "We have been over this," his voice was laced with exasperation as he insisted for what was probably not the second or third time pedantically, "He has told me himself how much he was relieved that Baki and himself were available for duty and how Leaf nin like us should just stay in our own damn country. Trust me, he relished the fact that that he didn't have to help her train anymore."
Tenten had almost forgotten the fact that she had been sent to Suna by Gai to train with Baki on how to use the legendary fan the Bashosen she acquired after the war. The sessions had started out with basic techniques until Baki insisted that Kankuro join their sessions so he could critique her battles. Kankuro had been particularly brutal their first match, choking her with his bare hands until Baki had run over and had to pull him off of her. She had been deprived of oxygen to the point of seeing stars and blacking out, and if the wind-user hadn't stepped in when he had she probably wouldn't have survived.
Kankuro had come up to her the next day and snarled to her that his former sensei insisted that he not kill her and then proceeded to make a snide comment about Konoha shinobi being babied before he stalked off in an angry huff.
Her team was renowned for pissing people off to this point, so it didn't really bother or intimidate her as was his intention that he had made such a comment. She took it with a grain of salt and knew that if the man was given the opportunity to make it look like an accident, he wouldn't hesitate to end her life in his country, paperwork and politics be damned.
That was about eight weeks ago. She had spent six weeks training with Baki and Kankuro in Suna in exchange for the legendary weapon to be displayed in the Suna weapon's exhibit. She had agreed they could keep it for as long as they deemed worthy as horse trading for housing her and training her. She had originally wanted them to keep it longer than six weeks, as she felt the training, and yes piss poundings she received from Kankuro, were worth more than equal amounts of time. Gaara had asked for her return a quick two weeks after she had left the fan in his care, and she felt more than just a little indebted to Gaara and Suna and his hospitalities that she agreed to stay for an extended time in Suna, per his request, as a special demonstrator for the ancient fan so that the people of Suna would better appreciate its power with a demographic performance as opposed to seeing it collect dust on the museum shelf. He had told her they would arrange for remuneration when she arrived, and she wasn't sure who was supposed to paying whom, but she left it up as something they would discuss during her briefing.
She had hardly left the gates of Konoha when she had gotten bludgeoned and dragged here.
"I was on my way to Suna when I was attacked," she spoke through gritted teeth. "Bastard must have taken me just to kill me and rub it in stupid Kankuro's face that he got to do what he couldn't do while Baki was watching." She reasoned as she tried to jump up in her chair and move it. "No matter how you look at it, I am collateral damage." She gave into her fit once more, aggressively jerking in her chair so she could get behind Shikamaru.
"There is one more thing I think you should know, Tenten." He nodded at Matsuri, who gave shook her head to let him know to proceed. "It's the way that we were taken that has me most concerned."
"What do you mean?" she scooted her chair closer to the back of his in little hops and scrapes across the floor.
"We were all taken on our way to Suna. Matsuri was coming back from a mission, and I was coming over for more diplomatic meetings with the Suna Council and Gaara. But," he hesitated once more, "Gaara's sand is, for all intents and purposes, impenetrable. Matsuri wasn't clubbed in the back of the head like you were, she was taken by injecting a drug in her system while sleeping. Temari is afraid of being taken from behind and over powered. Both of us were drugged. Gaara and Temari still haven't quite gotten over their fear of drugs and poisons since Kankuro's near death before the war. We figure that is why you got hit in the head and not drugged. Since his recovery, it was no longer an issue for him. But he wears that hood, so we figured that he might have some kind of an aversion to having any kind of head wounds."
Tenten scoffed, "Who wouldn't."
"Dammit! Listen to me! Do you know if Kankuro has a fear of being hit in the head?"
Tenten had to take several deep breaths and concentrated on what Shikamaru had been rambling on about before answering.
"There was one time during practice that I knocked his hood off and gave him a decent gash along his temple. It wasn't nearly as pretty as the one I am currently sporting, but it was enough that he nearly ripped me apart afterwards. But honesty anything I did pissed him off, so I am not sure that counts." She added unhelpfully. "Like I said, the man is just going to be pissed that this asshole got to watch me die and he didn't. You never know, Kankuro might clap the man on the back after he snuffs the life out of me, and congratulate him on a job well done or something. I wouldn't put it passed him to be ecstatic and leap at the chance to kick my lifeless corpse. Hell, the two could bond over this for all we know." She grit her teeth as she made a final hop-jump with the chair to position herself in place. "He might thank the man for completing a task that would otherwise cause an international incident."
"Ok, we get it, Kankuro hates you and wants to see you drown in a pool of your own blood." Shikamaru summarized as he craned his neck over his shoulder to get a twenty on just what she was up to. "You going to tell us what you are doing now?"
"I keep an emergency senbon in my hair for just such occasions. Once I fall over, carefully find it without undoing the tie and try to find the weapon so we can pick the locks and get the fuck outta dodge."
There was a moment's pause before the clacking of the chair hit the floor and Tenten braced herself for the impact, trying to guard her injuries so she wouldn't do further damage. It completely knocked the wind out of her and she tried to hold her head up so that Shikamaru could find the hair bun with his fists. In the pregnant pause in which Shikamaru filtered through her hair with his long fingers, Matsuri's voice once again reiterated with soft certainty, "He doesn't hate you, Tenten."
There was no reproof to be made as Shikamaru suddenly piped up, "Got it!" and the whole group seemed to be uplifted from just this simple statement. There was hope.