Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Sigh.


Sakura fluffed her hair as Sasuke walked up to the bridge where they were supposed to meet Kakashi-sensei for their morning training. As usual, the Uchiha boy didn't notice that she'd added a spritzer to her hair to make it shine in the sun.

"Good morning, Sasuke-kun! Have a good night?" She waved and smiled brightly. The dark-haired boy grunted a non-committal reply and slouched against the railing on the opposite side. Sakura sighed and flicked her hair with a pout.

"Where's Naruto?" Sasuke asked a few silent minutes later.

"I don't know," Sakura said, eyeing the way Sasuke's hair hung over his headband. So cute! "Maybe he slept in."

"Idiot," Sasuke scoffed.

"Yeah, you're totally right, Sasuke-kun. He's so lazy!" Sakura giggled but inwardly wondered. Naruto was dumb, but he never missed training. Where was he?

"Sorry I'm late," said Kakashi-sensei an hour later, poofing into existence on the rail beside Sasuke. "I lost track of time--"

"Liar!" Sakura muttered, but it didn't have the same impact without Naruto to back her up. Their silver-haired sensei noticed the absence as well.

"Where's Naruto?"

"Probably at Ichiraku Ramen," Sakura said with a shrug.

"No. I was just there," Kakashi-sensei said, his one visible eye glancing back down the path toward the village. "Hmm." He turned back to his other students. "Well, no time to waste. He'll show up, so let's get started."


Kakashi glanced over the top of Make-out Paradise as Sakura and Sasuke practiced their chakra control by walking on their hands across a river raging with rapids. Any ninja could walk across a calm pond with their feet, but it took physical balance to walk on the hands, and precise chakra control to allow the hands, with less surface area than a foot, to balance on the water. Add some river rapids to the equation and it had been a challenging few days for his three genin. Normally, he would have been keeping a close eye on Naruto for a test like this, but it was nearly lunchtime and Naruto still had not shown up. Kakashi wasn't worried, per se, but it was very unlike his most eager student to miss the training he craved.

Kakashi let Sasuke and Sakura balance a little longer on the rollicking river then called them in for lunch. He'd stopped by Ichiraku to pick up their lunches that morning, and Ayame-chan had been more than happy to add a little extra barbequed pork for Naruto's sake after Kakashi explained that they were up for a hard morning of training. It was slightly against his policy of insisting upon healthy, well-balanced meals for lunch during training, but Naruto had worked so hard the past couple of days, driving his body to the point of draining his chakra, that Kakashi decided to treat them all just this once.

Sasuke and Sakura dug into their cooling ramen with the intensity that hard work gives to growing young ninjas. Naruto's bowl sat off to the side, unopened, though Kakashi saw both Sasuke and Sakura eye it covertly after finishing their own meals. Before they could pounce, Kakashi gathered it up and stood, signaling the end of lunch.

"Good work you two," he said glancing up at the sun. "I think we're done for today. See you tomorrow." With one hand he made the seal and in a poof of smoke, he vanished.

Reappearing at the front of the shabby apartment building where Naruto lived, Kakashi glanced up at the top floor. He could see Naruto's window from here, but the curtain was closed. Jumping up with smooth motions, he perched on the railing, peering at the window. Not even latched. Kakashi shook his head. One day the kid was going to wake up and find all his precious stores of ramen stolen. A muffled groan from within the room made him look up with a sharper gaze. He fell back against the wall instinctively, ramen bowl clutched in one hand. It would be an ineffective weapon if an enemy happened to be present but might provide a useful distraction.

With a flick of his wrist, Naruto's window slid open, and Kakashi jumped through—landing on a pile of used tissues that were scattered over the floor. Looking up, he saw the source of the groan—Naruto lay on the floor near the door, still in his pajamas. Kakashi tensed and scanned the small room, but there was no one else there. Crouching by Naruto's side, he touched his student's shoulder.

"Naruto."

The blond boy opened one eyelid. "Kakashi... sensei..." He coughed, the sound rattling in his chest. "Am... am I dying?"

Kakashi glanced up at the room again, noting the half-eaten bowl of ramen, the pile of tissues he'd landed on, and the drying snot on Naruto's face. The older ninja gingerly rested his fingertips against Naruto's forehead. Yep, just as he'd thought.

"No, you're not dying," he said, sitting back on his heels. "You're sick."

"Sick? But I... I never get sick."

That was true enough. The Nine-Tailed Fox's healing abilities usually made Naruto the healthiest member of Team 7, despite his unfortunate tendency to overdo junk food. But then again, Kakashi had been working on chakra control for the past week, and Naruto had exhausted himself everyday; perhaps even the Nine-Tails couldn't completely hold back an invading germ when its host body was so physically drained.

"You have a fever, Naruto. Best to stay in bed and wait it out like the rest of us have to."

"I'm going to be okay, aren't I?" Naruto's blue eyes looked worried.

Kakashi nodded. "The only thing that'll cure this is rest."

"Hey!" The boy protested as Kakashi picked him up and set him on the bed. "Rest?" groaned Naruto. "But what about training? Future Hokages can't let a cold get them down! I've gotta go--" He fumbled with the covers until Kakashi pushed him back down.

"I don't think so. Sleep now, train another day."

Kakashi sighed when he saw the rebellious light in Naruto's eyes. Looks like I'll have to do this the hard way, he thought and lifted his headband. His sharingan spun like a miniature whirlpool and within seconds, Naruto slumped back against his pillow, down for the count. The hypnosis-induced sleep wouldn't last very long on a determined mind like Naruto, but it would give Kakashi some time. He didn't dare leave for long, otherwise he was sure he'd come across Naruto bravely attempting to train, only to fall over as his ill body rebelled against him and forcing himself was a surefire way to get to the hospital.

"First things first, I guess," Kakashi muttered and opened the window to let in some fresh air to the room which was starting to smell stale and closed in. The breeze was a bit strong though, so he added an extra blanket to Naruto's prone form and continued cleaning up. The pile of tissues went into a trash bag he found gathering dust in the bottom of a drawer, as did the scattering of empty styrofoam ramen bowls, and the milk carton from the fridge, more than a month old. He glanced back at Naruto, then delivered the trash to the dumpster in the alley behind the apartment building. After a stop at Ichiraku and the corner store for a couple of boxes of tissues and cough drops, he returned. Naruto still appeared to be deep in sleep so Kakashi warmed up the bowl he'd bought for himself in the microwave and lowered his mask to eat. He'd skipped lunch, and it was now closing in on dinner time; his stomach was grumbling at the lack of attention. He finished his meal and replaced his mask just as Naruto's eyes began to blink awake.

"Feeling better?"

"Yeah, a little." Naruto rubbed his eyes, coughed, and reached for the silently offered tissue box. A few tissues later and Naruto began to sound a little less like he had cotton stuffed up his nose.

"Here," Kakashi said, gesturing to the bowl from Ichiraku. "Eat up."

Naruto looked a little more lively and shuffled over to the table. "Mmm! Ramen! Thanks, sensei!" He peeled back the foil lid and made a face. "What's this? Where's the pork? The eggs?"

Kakashi grinned. "I asked Ayame-chan to make a special order for you. Plain broth with only a few noodles, plus onions. It's the most healthy for you right now while you're sick."

Naruto muttered something under his breath about starving to death, but the broth disappeared quickly enough with loud slurping once he got a taste of it. He even went back to bed without Kakashi ordering him to.

"Sensei?" he asked a moment later, pulling up the bed covers to his chin.

"Hmm?" Kakashi glanced up from his book.

"How long are you staying?"

Kakashi cleared his throat, there seemed to be something niggling that he couldn't swallow away.

"I don't think I can stay all night, but I'll stay until you go back to sleep."

It didn't take long for Naruto to drift off again, but Kakashi didn't notice—engrossed in his book as he was—until the boy started to snore. Tucking his book back into his pouch, Kakashi ducked out the window into the darkening evening and walked the sleepy streets until reaching his own apartment. He cleared his throat; there was still an odd tickly feeling...

He brightened as he checked his mailbox and saw that his new book had arrived. The Ninja's Guide to Making Out, a new novel by Jiraya-sama featuring the smarmy lawyer-shinobi who always got his man in court and some buxom female clients along the way. Shedding vest, headband, and ninja pouch and kicking off his sandals, Kakashi settled cross-legged onto his bed and prepared for a good read.

"Ach-hoo!"

Kakashi yanked his now wet mask away from his face and muttered a curse. Usually he caught sneezes before this happened, but that one came out of nowhere. He paused in the act of throwing his mask into the laundry basket. He never got sick. What if…?

Oh great.


[The next morning

Sakura sighed as Sasuke once again refused to have a conversation beyond words no longer than two syllables. Really, one would think that after all they'd been through together he could at least pretend to be interested. They were teammates after all…

"Hey, I'm back!" Naruto bounded up the bridge, his blond hair bobbing in the wind. "Hey, Sakura-chan, did you miss me yesterday?"

"Of course not!" she scowled. Naruto made a face at her then turned to share a nod and grunt with Sasuke.

"I thought you were sick?" Sakura said, eyeing him suspiciously. He didn't look sick; had he played hooky on them?

"I was, but I feel great now. Kakashi-sensei took care of me," Naruto said, arms behind his head. "I wonder how long he'll make us wait today?"

A few hours later, their silver-haired sensei still hadn't shown up and even Sasuke was beginning to fidget with impatience.

"Where is he?" fumed Sakura, pacing back and forth. "You would think he could at least attempt to be on time just once!"

"Well, he stayed up late taking care of me, so maybe he's sleeping in," offered Naruto, scratching his head. "Let's go to his apartment and drag him out of bed."

"Hmpf," said Sasuke.

"Let's do it!" Sakura agreed.


They'd all started out with enthusiasm but now that they were actually facing the pale green door leading to Kakashi-sensei's rooms, they all felt a little more subdued. They'd never been there before; it felt strange, almost like walking into the Hokage's office. Kakashi-sensei's apartment was at the end of a long hallway, next to a window that overlooked an alley. It was quiet, except for the hum of air conditioners in the distance.

Sakura was the first to recover from the nervous stupor that fell over them.

"Let's get this over with," she sniffed and raised her hand to knock on the door.

No answer.

She knocked again.

No answer.

"That does it," Sasuke said unexpectedly and hopped out the window next to them.

"Sasuke-kun!" shrieked Sakura, but Naruto hopped out after him. "Naruto!" She leaned out and saw Sasuke, with chakra controlled steps, stand on the wall and then lean down to fiddle with something next to a window that surely looked into Kakashi's apartment. Naruto turned, saw Sakura looking, and beckoned.

"Come on, Sakura-chan! Sasuke's disabled sensei's traps. We can get in fine!"

Sakura blew out an exasperated breath and followed the boys out the window. It took only a few seconds for them to climb through the apartment window and land in a small kitchen. Sasuke took the lead, and, motioning them to silence, crept from the kitchen to the main room. It was a mess. Used tissues lay scattered over the floor like discarded cotton balls, and a thermometer lay forgotten on the bedside table. Sakura picked it up gingerly: it had just been used apparently, for it still read 101 degrees.

Kakashi-sensei was laying in his bed, a motionless lump beneath the covers. Only the massive shock of silver hair sticking above the bed sheets proved that he was actually there.

"Sensei?" Naruto poked the figure with a finger.

The bed shook as Kakashi coughed in response. Finally he pulled down the sheet so that only his eyes were visible: the sharingan closed, the other blearily eyeing them with great disfavor.

"What's wrong sensei?"

"I think I'm dying," he said and burrowed again under the covers.

"Sensei, you're not dying," Naruto scoffed, folding his arms across his chest. "You're sick. But don't worry, Team 7 will take care of you!"

The only reply from the bed was a groan.