A/N: Been meaning to write this for ages. It's set before Kakashi meets Obito and Rin. It's short because I'm coming up with it on the spot, but I hope you like it!

Even in Konoha, a bloodied seven-year-old is an unusual sight. Sure, it's a ninja village, and sure, there's a war. Shinobi kids are getting slaughtered left, right and center. It's not uncommon to see eleven and twelve-year-olds with limbs sprouting blood or the occasional missing finger.

But this boy is seven. It's a funny number in itself. Add to the fact that the child in question is sulky, humourless, prodigal Kakashi Hatake, and it's actually no surprise to see him with a deep gash down his shoulder. His clothes are dripping red, his silvery hair is a muddy, sweaty mess, and his new accessory, the mask, is slightly torn. Hmm. Must have been a difficult mission.

Still, he walks resolutely, arms to his side, eyes emotionless. If he were ten years older, this would look like some sort of hero's march, but because this child is, well, a child, it looks mildly horrifying. His lemon-haired sensei says, "Let's first get you to the hospital. We'll report to the Hokage later, alright?"

"It's fine, sensei," Kakashi says for the umpteenth time. "There is no need to delay a meeting with the Hokage-sama." Pause. "Besides," Konoha's youngest chunin in three decades adds, "It was an important mission. Hokage-sama must be expecting results immediately."

"It's nothing that can't wait fifteen minutes," Minato-sensei says. His argument is not convincing, however, because he knows Kakashi is right. All throughout the mission, Minato had been stating its importance, its strategic brilliance, how it would give Konoha an edge in the years to come. He only shut up when Kakashi put himself in deliberate danger to complete the aforementioned mission. By the looks of things, his young student had managed to injure a vein. The dark red blood that oozed from the wound was the big giveaway.

Kakashi looks at his teacher imploringly. "We both know that fixing this injury will take more than fifteen minutes. Please, sensei, be reasonable."

"Alright," Minato sighs. "How about I go to the Hokage and you go to the hospital?" But one glance at his infuriating young student makes him change his mind. Kakashi is stubborn. He's determined to prove himself after his father's disastrous mission. While Sakumo is sitting at home drinking his life and his sanity away, Kakashi is working double-time to bring honour back to the family name. It's not healthy for a child his age to be doing so much strenuous work, but Kakashi is not one to listen. Besides, Minato knows that under the boy's tough, emotionless façade, Kakashi really is scared of people ostracising him. It's been happening a lot lately. He's not going to voluntarily walk into a shinobi hospital where people can glare at him and call him a traitor's son.

Just then, Minato's attention is stolen by the beautiful redhead that walks up to him.

"Hi," Kushina says. She's got a shopping bag in her hands. She must have been in the area when they'd arrived. Conscious of Kakashi's presence, she lightly pecks Minato's sweaty, scruffy cheek, before turning to the Hatake.

Kakashi has his eyes averted from the display of romance. When Kushina calls his name, he glances up, nods and looks to his feet.

"You're hurt. Badly," she mutters. Glaring at her fiancé, she snaps, "Minato, I hope you're taking him to the hospital. He'll bleed to death out here."

"It's fine, Kushina-san!" Kakashi cried. He keeps an excellent poker-face, especially when in his vehemence to emphasize his point, he jerks his body slightly and that sends shooting pain down his shoulder. Apparently, this performance doesn't quite impress the jinchuriki of the Nine Tails. She looks certifiably cross. Everyone knows not to antagonise her when she has that expression on her face. Wisely, Kakashi averts his eyes.

Now, Minato speaks up. "I was just telling him…" his voice trails away. "He doesn't want to go. He's making excuses. I was just—" and before he can finish his sentence, Kushina takes hold of the little Hatake's good arm.

"You," she says angrily, "We're going to the hospital. Now. Minato, you…you do what you want. Bye." And then she turns and walks, Kakashi in tow.

There's no way Kakashi's going to argue with Kushina Uzumaki. He's not that stupid. He's all too aware of how his sensei is scared to death of her. Anyone in their right minds would tread with caution.

Everyone in the reception falls silent as they enter the hospital. There aren't a lot of injured people all around, and only a couple of medic-nins, and as soon as Kakashi sets foot inside the place, he can feel everyone freeze. There is a palpable coldness in the air as Kushina marches up to the closest nurse she can find.

"He'll need treatment immediately," she barks.

The nurse looks at her and then at Kakashi Hatake before simply saying, "Please sit. Someone will attend to you shortly." Then, with the sensitivity of an ice cube, she stalks off.

Kakashi rolls his eyes. Though he'd never admit it, he's a bit scared. All his life, he'd been the celebrated son of Sakumo Hatake. An adorable child and yet a prodigy unlike Konoha had ever seen. Now he's been reduced to the scummy little offspring of a dirty traitor. He isn't used to it. He doesn't know what to do. It makes him feel self-conscious. That's why he's taken to wearing a mask. He doesn't want to be recognised by his father's crimes.

Funny, but Kakashi almost sees something flash in Kushina-san's eyes. She's deeply, deeply irritated. Kakashi's palm is cold and he looks clammy and grey. Naturally, prolonged blood loss would do that to a person. And for a child so young…

"Look here, you," Kushina shouts, "You know just as well as I do that Kakashi's injury is serious. He needs medical attention now. So don't give me that rubbish!" That, along with a (very) long string of expletives and Kakashi finds his arm healed and in a sling. With a few strips of medicines, he's told to go home and rest.

Kushina interprets the word 'home' as her's and Minato's little apartment, not Kakashi's large, quiet, sake-stinking mansion. She is quick to tuck Kakashi into bed (he doesn't protest because he's feeling nauseous from losing so much blood; also, Kushina is scary).

She makes him wear a change of clothes. Since Sakumo had become unstable, Minato had made a habit of keeping a few of Kakashi's possessions at home, in case Kakashi needed a place to stay. The young Hatake had never taken up the offer until now.

Kakashi is eating some soupy ramen when suddenly Kushina places a hand on the bed. He looks up.

"You know," she says simply, "You don't have to act so tough. It's okay. People still want to take care of you."

He blinks at her.

"I know they can be cruel," she continues. "I was teased all the time when I was in the Academy. But it's important to find people who love you for who you are."

Kakashi blinks some more. "Okay…" he says uncertainly.

Kushina suddenly smiles. "Finish your food and go to sleep." She kisses him lightly on the forehead—a gesture that takes him by surprise—and leaves the room, saying, "I'll be just outside if you need me."

Kakashi finds the whole experience very surreal.

Then he notices how the room is nice, toasty and warm.

A/N: I might actually make this into a one-shot collection, depending on the kind of reviews I get. Thanks for reading. Tell me what you think!