Sakura pulled the last of her dirty clothing out of her pack and made a face at the smell. Blood. She supposed she should be used to the smell of it after missions, in the hospital, and the way it faintly permeated where she stored her pack between missions. Shaking out the shirt, she studied the stain in the fabric. Wrinkling her nose, she wiggled a finger through the slice in the material. At least kunai left behind holes that were easier to mend than say, tree branches. Tree branches always left behind ragged tears that took some creativity to disguise. She was pretty sure this was going to be salvageable. It wasn’t like the Sound-nin paid particular attention to what she was wearing, after all. A vicious little smile curved her mouth. No, indeed, they were too busy watching what happened to the object she hit if she missed them. Still, she would be ashamed of herself if she didn’t do a good enough job mending that Sasuke wouldn’t notice.
Not something a lot of would-be ninja thought about. How good they have to be at mending their own uniforms. She was quite certain the prospect would have paused even Naruto. Even if he managed to talk her into doing most of the sewing for him; Sasuke at least had the decency to mend his own clothes. Granted, that could have been from his refusal to admit any sort of weakness. If a ninja had to learn how to sew, then he was going to be good at it.
Studying the fabric in her hands, she chewed on her bottom lip. The mission had been difficult. They still hadn’t worked out a perfect system. There were moments when they flowed with each other, extensions of the other until she knew that if she ducked just so, Naruto’s fist would imbed itself into the jaw of the Sound-nin who attempted to stab her, or that if she rolled forward into the punch, the heat of Sasuke’s jutsu would barely singe her. Then there were times they were so disjointed it made her teeth hurt. Naruto was still too rash, Sasuke too controlling. It was a lot easier to settle fights when you could hit a tree hard enough to splinter it into a thousand toothpicks, but those silences never lasted long.
It was wonderful. It was exhausting. It was everything it hadn’t been as a child in the Chunin exams. It was getting better. Naruto was willing to give now, until Sasuke understood that things didn’t always have to be this way. She was willing to sleep close enough that she could smell the sweat and blood on their skin, if only they would shut up. They pretended she wasn’t overly sensitive and she pretended that they weren’t reverting to teenagers when she wasn’t paying attention. There was no Kakashi to watch them as they slept, and there was a freedom in those woods. A freedom in being Team 7 without having ANBU watching their every move, without struggling to keep her own exhaustion and fear tucked away. Around the camp fire, there was only their ‘now’ and the ‘what ifs’ only crowded in a little.
She was pulled out of her musings at the sound of knuckles rapping against her door. Dropping the tunic, she headed to see who was dropping by. Sasuke had said something about digging through his family scrolls and Naruto was off dealing with some ANBU reports he had apparently fudged the first time... that left only a few people that she could think of off hand who would visit. Certainly it wasn’t Kakashi…
The other woman smiled and held up a small satchel. “I thought you had forgotten.”
Sakura stared at her for a moment before blushing. “Well, yes, I did.”
Tenten’s eyes crinkled at the edges, as if she had spent a lot of time laughing. With Gai and Lee on her team, that could have been from self preservation. Moving to the right, Sakura motioned for her to step in.
“I finished them last week, but you were out hunting Sound.” Tenten nodded towards the bloody clothing on the floor. “Seems like the rumor was right.”
There was a faintly wistful note in her voice, and Sakura could only nod. Team Gai had been grounded months ago. Even though Neji was ANBU, Tenten and Lee were still his preferred partners when he was hunting. Sakura knew that there were missions that had taken the Hyuuga out of the village alone, but it had been some time since she had heard rumors that even one of the members of Team Gai had left the village on a mission. Sakura wondered how much of that was Tsunade giving Neji backup, and how much was Team Gai refusing to leave the back of their white-eyed partner defenseless, no matter how much he could see.
“Yeah,” Sakura said with a smile as she retrieved the clothing and tossed it into the washer to be dealt with later. Maybe some salt would help with the worst of it. “So how many did you get finished?”
“All two dozen,” Tenten assured her as she sat the bundle on the table and unfolded the neat roll of canvas to show off the gleaming kunai. Sakura whistled in appreciation. It had been by accident that she had discovered the weapon masters knack with metal. She had been assigned to emergency duty a few years ago and had dug a kunai out of Lee’s back. As a ninja, she had made a point to get to know all the weapon smiths in the village, but the kunai she had pulled from Lee hadn’t bared any of the marks she was familiar with. It had taken some wheedling, but she had finally gotten it out of Lee, and had been quietly ordering kunai from Tenten since.
“Thanks! I think Sasuke has been snitching them when I’m not looking.” She wrinkled her nose. “Naruto just takes them from Sasuke.”
Tenten smiled again. “Should I make more of your surprise?”
Sakura shook her head. “No, those really aren’t for missions, you know? Besides, it’s nice to know something they don’t occasionally. Although I don’t think it will take them too long to figure things out once I give them their presents.”
Tenten smiled. “It’s easy enough to make four dozen as it is two, it’s just the polishing and refining the edges that takes the time.” She gave another one of her shrugs. “Right now I seem to have more time than I know what to do with.”
“How is that going?”
“Oh, it’s alright. Gai considers it a challenge to keep us busy, even though we technically don’t need a Jounin instructor anymore.” A faint smile curved along her mouth. “It could be worse.”
Sakura tossed Tenten the bag of coin she had set aside from her mission pay. “That should cover what I owe you. I haven’t seen Ino in a few weeks, so we should go out sometime this week.”
Tenten nodded, her smile widening. “I would like that. I have to run some errands over on her side of the village, so I’ll stop in and see if she is going to have time.”
Sakura grinned. “That would be great.”
“I’ll see you later, then.”
“Tell Lee I said hi.”
“I will. Take care!”
Sakura shut the door, and smiled to herself. She just hoped the surprise for her boys, tucked safely under a loose board under her bed, would go over well. The kunai Tenten had made at her request weren’t exactly the sort that Sasuke or Naruto would take into battle. They were just a little to ornate, but they were sharp and their balance true. Open weapons. The kind they could wear in public as decoration at formal events or keep on a wall as an open, but pretty threat.
The sort of thing Sasuke was lacking in his home and if she was getting Sasuke something, it was just as easy to spend the extra coin and get Naruto a similar gift. Sasuke for something to put on his walls. Naruto as something he could use later, when he was Hokage and at some diplomatic meeting. Turning, she gathered the kunai up went to put them away. There was still laundry and mending to do, and sitting around thinking of her boys just wasn’t going to get it done.