Sakura rubbed her tired eyes as she moved to sit down in front of Tsunade's desk. Even without Orochimaru leading Sound, they were still causing trouble. Unfortunately, a genin team and their jounin had run into a squad. Only one of the genin had made it back, and even after hours of surgery, he hadn't made it. Rubbing palms that even after several washings felt sticky with blood, she watched as the Hokage read her report. The one sitting next to it had to be what was written up from the child's statement. She had been too involved in keeping his heart and lungs working while he gasped out what had happened to actually pay attention to what he was saying. She wasn't even sure who it had been.
"ANBU have been hunting the remains of the Sound Ninja for months now. We have had some success," the words hung between them and Sakura suddenly knew who had had the most success and why he had pushed himself so hard.
"However, we obviously haven't gotten them all. I have already assigned an ANBU squad to see what they could find."
Sakura frowned. Why was Tsunade telling her this?
"I have clearance from the council," the edge of her mouth curled a little, "to allow the Uchiha to be assigned to tracking and destroying what is left of the Sound."
Her heart dropped into her stomach. There had to be things Tsunade wasn't telling her if she was actually allowing Sasuke to leave Konoha, and if she was telling the truth, if the council had agreed to such a move. Lacing her fingers together tightly, she struggled for her composure.
"I would just send out Kakashi and perhaps the Neiji, but both are currently occupied."
Kakashi was hunting the Akatsuki with several Sand operatives and had been for months. Neiji couldn't leave Konoha because of the current split in the Hyuuga clan. It would severely weaken Hinata's position to loose Neiji's support if something happened. It was all a balancing act. Sakura would have given her arm to know what exactly Tsunade had done to get compliance from the Council regarding Sasuke.
"Why," Sakura started, but Tsunade held up her hand.
"Naruto and you will be accompanying him when he leaves in the morning. The council wants someone who is strong enough to bring him back if he tries to bolt, and no matter how much trust I put into Naruto, the Council does not see things the way I do. However, you are my apprentice. They will accept you as a part of this mission to give an accurate and correct report once you return."
Sakura licked dry lips. "Even with Sasuke's and my past? My friendship with Naruto?"
"You are a ninja. You will do your duty." Tsunade said in a hard voice. She reached up and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "I considered suggesting someone else, but the three of you still work well together. Throwing in an unfamiliar ninja with Sasuke right now would end up getting someone killed."
Sakura nodded. She knew Tsunade was aware that they had been training together at night, and she also knew Tsunade was aware of how much time she had been spending outside of work with her teammates. Tsunade reached down and picked up a scroll.
"Here is the mission scroll. I expect you and your team to leave at dawn tomorrow."
Sakura took the scroll and bowed, hoping that it wasn't noticeable how tightly she had twisted her fingers together behind her back. Her insides were a mess of excitement (Team 7!) and anticipation (Sound…). She wasn't entirely sure where things would be once they settled out.
By the time she managed to get her thoughts in order, she found herself starring at Naruto's front door. Blinking in surprise, she hadn't remembered walking this far, she bit her bottom lip before rapping on the door and bouncing on her heels as she waited for him to answer. She supposed she could have just walked in, she had the key, but the last time that happened, she had caught him in just a towel. Shivering a little at the memory, wet skin, hard muscles… she forced the thoughts of her mind as the door opened.
"Sakura-chan! I didn't think we were meeting to train for another hour!"
She cleared her throat. "I have a mission tomorrow."
He moved aside to let her in the door. "Really? I thought Tsunade was keeping you close to the hospital for more training."
"I'm going as part of a team, Naruto. That's why we have medic-nin, you know."
"True." He agreed, flopping next to her when she sat on the couch. "Can you talk about it?'
She handed him the scroll. He gave her a confused look before shrugging and unrolling it. She looked away from him, lacing her fingers together and just listening to the sound of his breathing. The moment the assignment sank in he stopped moving.
"Is this right?"
"Straight from Tsunade."
She didn't have to look to see the grin that was splitting Naruto's face. She could feel it. Allowing the corners of her own mouth to lift a little, she tilted her head to look at him. "I thought we could go tell him, together. I mean, I have to head home afterwards to pack. It could take us a while but I thought…"
Her nose was buried in his shoulder and that made it hard to talk. His chin rested on the top of her head as he hugged her, arms squeezing as they savored the realization that they were back together. Years of work had finally paid off. Not exactly in the way that they had wanted, but with her medic-nin training, and once Sasuke was allowed to train for ANBU, their teamwork would be valuable enough they would get missions together. Horrible missions that would ring them out from the inside, but at least they would be rung out together instead of alone.
Wrapping her arms around Naruto's waist, she savored the knowledge that they had won at least one battle against the council.