Sakura shivered. Even wrapped in Naruto's extra shirt, the rapidly dropping temperature was cold enough she felt miserable. The storm that was rolling in was moving fast. They were on their way back from a mission, still too far from Konoha to make it back before it broke loose. This time of the year was known for its quick storms, but thankfully, not the funnels that would tear up large tracks of land. Still, the dark line said the storm was going to be violent. They had been hunting actively for shelter since Sasuke had seen the approaching line of clouds.
"This is all you found?" Sakura questioned her voice doubtful; in front of her was a tree as wide as her arms outstretched. It was entirely hollow, and might fit all three of them if they squished together. Really, really, really close together.
"Fuck," Naruto muttered.
Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "It's all we have."
The first fat, cold raindrop hit her cheek and she jumped. "We better hurry."
Things had been so much easier when they were genin. Sasuke didn't have those damn long legs that got in the way of everything and cramped so damn easily, and Naruto wasn't so broad in the shoulders. It was impossible for Sakura to squish between them as they did as Genin, and so she ended up sprawled over both their laps, shivering as she watched the thick curtain of gray rain hit the dirt just inches from her fingertips. Sasuke had known a jutsu that acted as a thin barrier between them and the rain, keeping both him and Naruto from being soaked from the thighs down.
However, the situation couldn't be comfortable for either man. She was pressing against Naruto in a… well, she was pressing rather firmly against Naruto. If she shifted, her knees would knock Sasuke in the chin. Sasuke's legs barely fit inside the trunk, and where rather oddly tangled with Naruto's.
"It's a good thing you're both straight."
Sasuke snorted and Naruto laughed, the sound rumbling against his shoulder, "dirty thoughts, Sakura-chan?"
She drove her elbow into his gut and he wheezed, head resting against her shoulder. "Just making an observation, idiot."
Naruto rubbed his chest. "I thought we had a no violence rule while in small, confined areas."
Sasuke shook his head. "You ruined that in the cave over the last piece of fish."
"If you both remember, I ended that one." Sakura said calmly. "Don't make me do it again."
Her elbow drove back again at what suspiciously sounded like Naruto calling her mommy. Ignoring the way he gasped for air, she held out her hand to Sasuke. "Let me see your arm."
He twitched, muscles bunching along his shoulders, and she narrowed her eyes. "My feet are not exactly in the safest place for you're um, personal safety, Sasuke. Arm."
Silently he handed over the damaged appendage. Running her fingers along the wound she had closed the night before, Sakura nodded in satisfaction before letting just enough Chakra sink into his pathways to finish the healing. Away from Konaha she had to be careful with how much chakra she used when healing the team, especially if there was a chance she couldn't rest or eat as she needed to regain what she had used. Not that she minded using her chakra to heal them, but Sasuke and Naruto were particularly testy about it. Once she was satisfied that the injury was healed, she let her fingers drop and nodded at him.
He nodded in thanks and they were quiet as they watched the storm. However, watching the storm was only fascinating for so long. Sighing heavily, she turned her head against Naruto's throat and watched Sasuke. He looked tired; she wondered how much sleep he was actually getting when they weren't on missions. She had noticed that he seemed to sleep heavy when it wasn't his watch. It spoke for how much he trusted them to watch his back that he slept better when on missions than when at home. She couldn't blame him. Sometimes she woke up at night and reached for bodies that weren't there.
"Hey, Sasuke-kun," the childhood name rolled from her tongue before she could catch it. Biting her lip at the way he opened on eye, she sighed. "Are you sleeping at all when we aren't on missions?"
She jabbed him a little with her heel. "You're back to one word sentences."
He closed his eyes, ignoring her.
Huffing, she wiggled a little to find better position against Naruto.
"Sakura," Naruto's voice was a bit rough. "I don't mind much, but when a woman wiggles around on a man's lap, he has a reaction."
She froze. "Right."
Sasuke sighed. "Idiot."
The sound of ice hitting the tree and the ground had her leaning a little closer against Naruto. She wasn't scared of storms, per se, but if they ended up in the path of one of those air funnels…
"Don't worry," Naruto told her, hand running up and down her arm. "If one of those funnel things sets down, we'll know and I'll just call a toad to get us the hell away."
Sakura relaxed. She hadn't thought about that. It would be a wet, wild, probably dangerous ride and one she hoped to avoid, but the knowledge that there was an escape plan was comforting in the way only giant frogs were. She frowned when she realized her foot was falling asleep.
"Getting out of this tree trunk is going to be difficult," she muttered.
"How come?" Naruto asked.
"Unless you know a medical jutsu that I don't that keeps your legs from falling asleep, were all going to have crawl out of here." She pointed out.
She felt him move with his grimace. "I hadn't thought of that."
"At least we're not wet." Sasuke pointed out.
Fingering the sleeves that currently flopped over her hands, she mentally agreed with Sasuke. Being wet was only worse when you were wet and cold. The storm was still dropping temperatures. Thankfully, Naruto and Sasuke were plenty warm.
"How long do you think they are going to let us hunt Sound-nin?" Sakura asked quietly, curling her fingers into a fist inside her sleeves. For a moment she thought that Naruto and Sasuke had both fallen asleep, and then Naruto sighed.
"For as long as they can get away with it, I suppose."
"Chasing Sound-nin serves two purposes for the council." Sasuke said mildly. "It gives us a chance to be killed, and it gets Naruto out of their hair."
Sakura frowned. "Yes, but its also blatantly flaunty Naruto in the face of the Akatsuki. There have to be rumors of us fighting Sound-nin by now."
Naruto's body moved under her as he shrugged. "Maybe they just can't win at everything."
"Then why send me?" Sakura questioned, curious to see what they had reasoned behind her back.
"Liability." Sasuke said flatly. "They know how Naruto responds to you being danger."
Naruto snorted. "Oh please. Kakashi probably had to report the fight with Kisame, which means they know you're really just a great big mother-hen, bastard."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed and Sakura spoke quickly. This was not the time to be fighting.
"I can take care of myself."
"We know," Naruto said. He shifted, and she could almost feel the stare he was directing at her profile. "Although I wouldn't think blowing yourself up is a good way to take care of yourself, Sakura-chan."
She thought about elbowing him, and decided against it. "Sasuke?"
"The council considers you a liability," he said finally. "Even though you are the Hokage's apprentice. Which is a mistake. Especially if they wish to maintain the illusion of power."
"You wanna explain that one, teme?"
"Rumors suggest that Hinata is slowly winning the battle inside the Hyuuga compound. The Branch house supports her mostly over her sister. Hanabi merely has the support of some of the older members of the clan, but her temperament is such that it is unlikely she will maintain that support. I suspect there will be a subtle shifting of power inside the council in the future." Sasuke mused, a small smile quirking the edges of his mouth.
Sakura considered that. Maybe it was time she started keeping her ears open again. Tsunade had never really bothered censoring her tongue around her or Shizune. She knew the sector supporting Tsunade was likely to be a wellspring of information, especially when it came to how the Council was dealing with the Uchiha and the Kyuubi vessel. It was a matter of waiting everyone out, now. She and Sasuke had spent the last three months carefully feeding Shikamaru and Neiji the information they needed to gain support. Everything was set to come out as they wanted (with the few expections, the bumps that were inevitable) if all three of them could just stay alive long enough to see their plans through to the end.
"The Jounin exams are coming up." Sakura said softly, deliberately changing the subject. It was something she had wanted to discuss with them anyway.
Naruto ran a hand down her arm. "Are you thinking about taking them?"
Sakura sighed. "Tsunade and I have been talking. She thinks it will be… helpful in the future. If I can summon Katsuyu by the time enrollment for the trials begins, then I plan on going for it."
Naruto frowned. "Summoning takes a lot of chakra."
Sakura nodded. "Yes, usually."
Sasuke cracked an eye open. "Sakura…"