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Title: Snake In The Grass
Pairing/Characters: None/Tenzou - Orochimaru and Sarutobi mentioned, Kakashi makes a brief appearance
Summary: Snakes scare Tenzou for more reasons than the obvious.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Naruto and I didn’t make any money for writing this
Dedicated to: DracoAries because it’s her favorite pairing and I thought she could use a pick me up. Though this isn’t fluff I hope just something more with them would help.
A/N: I suppose if you wanted you could read OroTen or KakaYama overtones but really this is more of a character piece.

It’s long, black body wound through the brush far below the heavy canopy.

Tenzou stood there on the branch of the tree staring at it, transfixed. He couldn’t help, but watch. Tension curled low in his gut and he wondered for what was probably the hundredth time if he knew. ’Can you see me? Do you know who I am? Is that why you’re here or is this merely coincidence weighed heavier than it should be because I am overly aware of you?’ He wished he could believe that it was coincidence and that the thing wasn’t watching him. His skin crawled every time he saw them and it brought up childish fears that made him want to run as far and as fast away from it as he could.

The snake paused it’s forward motion, and instead coiled on the ground just below his feet.

Reaching up, Tenzou tightened the ties of the ANBU cat mask that he wore and wondered again at the choice of it for him. Sarutobi-sama had handed it to him personally at the ceremony accepting him and the others into ANBU.

”Cats have hunted snakes for generations. I hope that you can find the strength you need to not fear your past.”

He wondered even now, years later, what had been meant by those words. Had the hokage expected him to take on the Sanin? It was too late to ask him, but he hoped not, he doubted he was or would ever be capable of that. For more reasons than the obvious. Some of those reasons he doubted he could ever voice aloud.

Sometimes Tenzou hated him. It was, afterall, because of Orochimaru that he was an outcast. People were cautious of him because of his connection to the Sanin and because of what had been done to him. The genetic alteration when he’d been an infant made them wary. There were those who felt it was wrong or that it made him some kind of freak. Others were jealous of his abilities, awed by it, or obsessed with it. Added to the fact that no matter what he did they would always question whether some day he would betray them and it was hard to deal with. Maybe if he hadn’t been the only one to survive it would be easier, but he was and so he was alone.

Sometimes Tenzou was scared of him. His fears ran deeper than simply wondering what Orochimaru could and likely would do to him if he ever found out he was alive and came after him. Deep inside he questioned the fluke that seemed to be his surviving. After he’d become an ANBU and been given clearance he’d read the report on the day they’d found him and the others. Orochimaru had attempted to destroy the evidence by placing a jutsu on the lab that was meant to kill them all. Not all of them had died quickly. Some of them had lived for awhile, slowly, painfully deteriorating, until finally dying. Some of those deaths had been incredibly gruesome; one had even after days and days of near constant crying simply exploded. The nurse who had been holding the baby at the time had required a memory block in the end in order to overcome the trauma. He had memorized every symptom that had been marked down on the infants and himself in the days before he’d recovered. It fed his fear, his paranoia, that some day he would fall apart too, but it also made it easier not to question every symptom when he got sick.

Sometimes Tenzou was grateful to him. He was able to protect the village, his comrades, and himself because of his ability. It felt wrong to be grateful to the man who could have just as easily killed him as not. He knew Orochimaru saw him as an experiment and he knew that if Orochimaru knew that he had lived he felt nothing for him beyond satisfaction over his own skills and fascination with how he could use what he had ’created’, but he was still grateful. Grateful it was him because he was a genius and not inept. Grateful that he had been the one to survive. Grateful that Orochimaru had been skilled enough to grant him the abilities he had. Grateful.

The branch swayed at additional weight landing on it. Tenzou blinked, drawn out of his thoughts, and looked up.

Hound stood next him, the white ANBU mask still pulled down over his face. “Are you alright?”

Tenzou looked back down. The snake was gone and he questioned if it had even been there in the first place. “I’m fine, Senpai.” He wasn’t, but Kakashi was one of the few friends and his team leader he had and the last thing Tenzou needed was to have him questioning his sanity.

Kakashi said nothing, but he laid a hand on Tenzou’s shoulder for a moment before turning and moving off again.

Leaping after him, Tenzou pushed all the thoughts of Orochimaru away and tried to focus on the mission ahead of them. Whatever happened regarding the Sanin in the future, he couldn’t afford to let it get to him now.


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February 2013

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