In the orphanage, family is an impossible dream. Adoption an unheard of miracle, passed down as whispers from the older children to the younger in the dark of the night. The closest thing to bedtime stories they get.
But a team is more attainable and nearly as good–better, if you believe the propaganda. Good teammates will be in your thoughts and in your heart, have your back and your trust.
Together, the ideal team functions seamlessly, different parts of a greater whole. Together, the ideal team can easily defeat an army ten times their size.
They are not an ideal team.
They are not even a team.
Frankly, in all the chaos, it’s hard to tell if they’re on the same side.
Tetsuki jerks backward to avoid a hit, only to duck and get knee to the nose while avoiding a set of shuriken from the treetops. They embed themselves perfectly into her opponent’s calf–he howls in pain and she definitely takes the opportunity kick out at his other leg, bringing him down completely–but they could have easily stuck into her shoulder instead.
TenTen’s aim is perfect, but it doesn’t account for allies getting her way.
Naruto Uzumaki learned this the hard way, kunai sticking out of his shoulder until he pulled it out and used it for himself.
The both of them are absolutely filthy by this point: dirt and blood, a fair share of it their own, staining their clothes. Neji Hyuuga doesn’t have this problem–a neat pile of paralyzed bodies clustered at his feet.
There’s so much going on–so many people and weapons and other metallic knickknacks, zippers and buttons and jewelry–that Tetsuki can’t tell if any of them have tokens on them. She doesn’t have the time to more thoroughly search them, either, not when for every opponent she takes down another two pop up.
It’s no longer just the mob they’re fighting at this point–the ruckus of large scale battle attracting the more active and eager of their classmates. Only the light of the moon and the occasional flash bang illuminates the space, with clashing kunai and the scent of blood in the air, it really is like a true shinobi battle.
At this point, it barely has anything to do with the exam, hidden grudges bubbling up easily without adult supervision. Tetsuki herself is not entirely immune to the fever of battle:
“Hey you,” she says to the sensible son of a bitch Komadori. All the warning she provides before punching him right in his surprised face. But tit for tat is not the way of shinobi, grudges are not resolved by simply balancing the equation, and so what should have been a simple surprise hit becomes a prolonged fight.
This time Tetsuki uses everything she has, doesn’t limit herself or conserve energy for running away. Genjutsu falls over him in layers, shrouding his senses, but his memory and practiced motions pull him through, chakra flaring to throw off her efforts. She responds feral, brutal, and so does he.
They are still fighting when TenTen runs out of weapons, the clearing liberally sprinkled with her efforts, and she has to drop into the fray herself. They are still fighting when Naruto Uzumaki and Neji Hyuuga stumble into each other–the latter’s Byakugan deactivated for some reason–and are forced to literally fight back to back. They are still fighting when the sun rises, sky blazing orange, and the exam officially ends.
They are fighting up until Yanagi-sensei and Hinoura-sensei bodily pull them apart, well-rested adult selves easily lifting their exhausted child bodies, and it’s as if she suddenly wakes up.
Her entire body throbs furiously, painfully, adrenaline wearing off and leaving her with the consequences of her actions. She squirms in Yanagi-sensei’s hold to search for Naruto Uzumaki, to meet his eyes and apologize because–she forgot about the exam. Forgot about his objective and the token. Forgot about him.